Napoli 1-0 Liverpool
Napoli 1-0 Liverpool: Lorenzo Insigne blows Group C wide open with late winner while Naby Keita injury caps a night to forget for Jurgen Klopp
- Lorenzo Insigne nets winner in final minute of normal time to give Napoli to open up Champions League group
- Liverpool’s Naby Keita carried off in medical cart in the first half after appearing to suffer a hamstring injury
- Mohamed Salah endures another frustrating evening as Liverpool fail to pick the lock in the Napoli defence
- Dries Mertens came close to scoring after rattling the frame of the goal with just nine minutes remaining
Jurgen Klopp looked towards the swarming Area Nord with his eyes blazing and his arms outstretched. He feared this moment was coming but now? Why now?
Liverpool had deservedly just conceded the opening goal of the game but the timing of it was fatal. Lorenzo Insigne had just slid into convert Jose Callejon’s cross and with the clock showing 90 minutes, Klopp’s team – for one night at least – were dead and buried.
Had Liverpool escaped from this emotional venue with a point, it would only have been down to luck. Napoli were superb, dominating Klopp’s team to such an extent that Liverpool failed to register a shot on target in the Champions League for the first time since February 2006.
Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne celebrates after scoring the winning goal against Liverpool in the Champions League clash
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND MATCH ZONE
NAPOLI: Ospina 6; Maksimovic 7, Albiol 7, Koulibaly 7, Mario Rui 7; Callejon 6, Allan 6, Hamsik 6.5 (Zielinski 81min), Ruiz 7 (Verdi 68, 6); Milik 7 (Mertens 68, 6), Insigne 8.
Subs not used: Karnezis, Hysaj, Diawara, Rog.
Goals: Insigne 90
Manager: Carlo Ancelotti 6.
LIVERPOOL: Alisson 7.5; Alexander-Arnold 5.5, Gomez 7, Van Dijk 7, Robertson 6; Milner 6 (Fabinho 76), Wijnaldum 6, Keita 5 (Henderson 19, 6.5): Salah 5, Firmino 5, Mane 5 (Sturridge 89).
Subs not used: Mignolet, Lovren, Moreno, Shaqiri.
Manager: Jurgen Klopp 6.
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary) 6.
‘I’m not 100 per cent sure why that happened,’ said Klopp. ‘It’s very difficult to explain why you lose again before you see it. We were not good enough but I need one night at least to watch it again.’
He knows already that it will not be easy viewing. This performance was far removed from what you expect of a Klopp team; they were passive, meek and vulnerable and Napoli, in all honesty, should have secured three points long before the final seconds.
From the first seconds, after all, Liverpool were disjointed. Klopp, buried under a baseball cap to guard from the incessant rain, must have felt like covering his eyes at times given the paucity of their passing; on such a huge pitch, it left them vulnerable.
Naby Keita, in particular, was culpable and one errant delivery almost led to the opening goal. His ball to Trent Alexander-Arnold looped over the right back’s head and it allowed Lorenzo Insigne to steal in from the left. His shot in the 11th minute was firm but it lacked accuracy and whistled wide.
Other than a shot from Arkadiusz Milik that Alisson dismissively punched away in the 33rd minute, Liverpool kept Napoli at arms’ length, the main reason being was the poise of the central defenders Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk, who was a towering presence.
They also regained an element of control when captain Jordan Henderson was forced into action in the 20th minute after Keita left the field on a stretcher; the severity of the back injury the Guinea midfielder had suffered is unclear.
But the one thing Liverpool could not do was impose their attacking power on Napoli. Sadio Mane was well shackled on the left, Mo Salah kept running down dead ends on the opposite flank, while Roberto Firmino was snuffed out. Those three are nowhere near the exalted levels of last season.
Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson competes for the ball against Napoli forward Jose Callejon during the opening 45 minutes
Yet when they returned, there was no upturn. Napoli were the team that started with purpose and Milik, sensing the opportunity, waved his arms to the fans behind Alisson’s goal and whipped them into a frenzy.
They responded as you would expect, generating remarkable noise that bounced around this cavern, and for most the second period, Napoli were camped in Liverpool’s half and they started to get closer and closer to making a breakthrough.
First Alisson needed to be alert to get down swiftly to his left and turn away a fizzing drive from Nikola Maksimovic that appeared to be creeping into the far corner; Gomez followed up, thrashing the ball away for a corner.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp looks frustrated on the touchline as he watches his side struggle to thrive in Naples
Still the threat was not gone and from the set piece that followed, Fabian Ruiz forced Alisson into action again while just before the hour, Ruiz hesitated for a fraction when he shaped to shoot inside the area and allowed Alexander-Arnold to make a timely intervention.
Napoli kept pressing but had no fortune. When Jose Callejon’s shot beat Alisson, Gomez kicked it off the line; when substitute Dries Mertens beat Alisson, his header thudded against the bar and bounced away. The third chance, however, brought the luck with Insigne sparking bedlam.
‘You could see Napoli used the atmosphere and we couldn’t calm it down,’ said Klopp, who admitted some of the culpability for the performance should be placed on his shoulders. ‘That was not how it should have looked. But on Sunday it will be 100 per cent different.’
It needs to be. If not, Klopp will have blazing eyes once again.