Liverpool’s defensive frailties reared their ugly head once more as they opened their Champions League campaign with a 2-2 draw against Sevilla at Anfield.
The Reds went behind within five minutes as Wissam Ben Yedder was afforded a simple tap in after a catalogue of errors at the back.
Roberto Firmino finished off a slick Liverpool move to equalise just over 15 minutes later and then they went ahead in the 37th minute through Mohamed Salah’s viciously deflected strike.
Firmino should have made it 3-1 before the break as he slammed a penalty against the post and it ultimately proved costly as the Spanish visitors equalised through the impressive Joaquin Correa in the 72nd minute.
Here are three things learned from an entertaining night at Anfield…
FIRMINO HAS EVOLVED INTO A PROPER NO9
The Brazilian took on the cursed No9 shirt this season and is quickly dispelling the hex created by flops Andy Carroll, Christian Benteke, Iago Apas and Rickie Lambert.
Indeed, from false nine to genuine nine, Firmino is flourishing in the role and against Sevilla he displayed all the characteristics of the position.
He plundered his fourth goal in six games, won balls in the air, pressed relentlessly, held the ball up superbly and his link-up play with Salah and Joe Gomez on the right was slick.
Alongside Sadio Mane and Salah, he did the damage but unfortunately for the Reds the ramifications of his missed penalty in the end proved equally as harmful.
Still, with the reintroduction of his countryman Philippe Coutinho, the best is yet to come from Firmino this season.
SET-PIECE PROBLEMS INCLUDE THROW INS
Liverpool’s almost stubborn inability to defend set-pieces is well documented and well crticised.
But the systemic problem stretches further than just corners and free-kicks because you can add throw-ins to the rap sheet.
In the 3-3 draw with Watford earlier this season Abdoulaye Doucoure’s second goal stemmed from delicate defending from a throw-in and Sevilla’s equaliser reiterated the issue.
Emre Can and Jordan Henderson were immediately out of position with the ball behind them as Sergio Escudero quickly resumed play.
The rest of the backline were caught completely static as well with simple man marking non-existent.
Credit to Correa for a sublime first touch and cool finish but it seems like Liverpool’s frenetic pace going forward means when breaks in play occur they just shut down and fall asleep.
It’s baffling and vexing in equal measure a team could cause such panic in attack but then panic at the back.
HENDERSON IS HEADLESS
The captain needed a strong performance after his meek surrender in the shattering defeat to Manchester City last weekend. It never arrived, though.
In truth, he was awful in a game when the battle of the midfield trios was always going to be crucial.
One wonders when Naby Keita arrives next season whether his position in the team will be so certain because the performances of late really call that into question.
He pressed into Sevilla players headlessly and it meant the back four was very often left exposed and without cover.
The England international hit a 75 percent pass success rate and for a No6 that’s simply unacceptable.
Granted his pass to Alberto Moreno in Firmino’s equaliser was exquisite but the positive plays are being outweighed by the negative at the moment.