Analysis: Liverpool Begin Champions League Defence With Defeat

Champions League
NAPLES, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 17: Georginio Wijnaldum and Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool look dejected during the UEFA Champions League group E match between SSC Napoli and Liverpool FC at Stadio San Paolo on September 17, 2019 in Naples, Italy. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Liverpool began their defence of the Champions League title with a disappointing start away to SSC Napoli.

Defeat For Liverpool as Reds Begin Title Defence

A Marked Improvement From Last Season

The match turned when a questionable penalty was awarded; Andy Robertson was deemed to have fouled Jose Callejon in the Liverpool box. The result was sealed due to a rare defensive error from Virgil van Dijk.

Despite the result, there is little cause for concern from a Liverpool perspective. This was the toughest fixture in the group. There are still 15 points to play for in what should be a relatively comfortable group. Liverpool lost away to Napoli in the group stage last season and still went on to win the tournament so they should not overreact.

The game against Napoli marked back-up keeper Adrian’s Champions League debut and he had one of his better performances for the club so far making key saves in the first half to keep Liverpool in the game. A fine double stop from Fabian Ruiz shortly before Napoli had a goal ruled out for offside was the highlight though Adrian will be disappointed to have conceded the penalty after getting a strong hand to Merten’s shot. Adrian saved 60% of the shots that he faced and did not deserve to be on the losing side.

Absence of Clean Sheets for Liverpool

A lack of clean sheets so far this season will be of concern to those of a Liverpool persuasion. Although, it is not something that they should be too worried about. Robertson was far from his best last night; it should be noted that he had only been passed fit for the game shortly before kick-off. He missed training on Monday with an injury. The foul that he conceded when giving away the penalty was also questionable with Callejon appearing to jump over his leg.

Rival fans were also quick to mock Virgil van Dijk due to his role in Napoli’s second. His performance prior to this matched his usual high standards though. He won 87.5% of his duels and 75% of duels in the air while not conceding a single foul. Van Dijk also made eight clearances in the game and won 100% of his tackles; therefore he was helping to keep Liverpool in the game for a long period of time.

This though was a night where Liverpool’s world-class players provided a reminder that they are only human. Many expect near perfection from van Dijk and the front three such are the high standards that they have set themselves; however, the attack left much to be desired against Napoli. Salah, Mane and Firmino only had a total of four shots on target between them though their work-rate could not be questioned. These four shots on target were also the only shots on target that the team managed on the night. This suggests that other players in the team need to step up and contribute more in an attacking sense. There could have been more shots on target, though Salah and Mane appeared a little reluctant to shoot at times instead trying to find each other.

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