Holders Liverpool spurned a chance to confirm their berth in the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League knockouts with a game to spare after a 1-1 draw with Napoli at Anfield.
The hosts knew that victory against crisis-addled opponents would have guaranteed top spot in Group E. These hopes, however, were shattered in the 21st minute when Belgium predator Dries Mertens nudged over Virgil van Dijk, before racing onto a looped pass and leathering the ball into the bottom corner from a tight angle – via a lengthy video-assistant referee referral.
Jurgen Klopp’s men quickly regained the momentum, but struggled to draw level. Senegal centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly cleared off the line from Brazil striker Roberto Firmino into the second half, prior to Croatia’s Dejan Lovren rising highest in the 65th minute from an outswinging James Milner corner to make it 1-1.
Liverpool must now avoid defeat at Red Bull Salzburg next month to advance. Here are the player ratings:
Alisson 6: Initially tempted to come out when Mertens cleared, but then beaten by devilish swerve. Nothing else to do.
Joe Gomez 5: Usual centre-back knocked in five crosses at right-back – none were accurate. Hooked early in second half as shape shifted to 4-2-3-1.
Dejan Lovren 7: Croatia centre-back produced a decent defensive header to keep score down, then pounced at the opposite end to make it 1-1. Much calmer these days.
Virgil van Dijk 6: Floored by a nudge from diminutive Mertens in build-up to opener. Steadied himself.
Andrew Robertson 6: Scotland left-back was usual effervescent self. Missed usual side-kick Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Jordan Henderson 6: His deep ball forced mistake from which Kalidou Koulibaly had to clear off the line.
Fabinho 5: Caused collective outbreak when removed with an early injury.
James Milner 7: Made clattering tackle after concession to gee up his team-mates. His corner landed on Lovren’s head to level.
Mohamed Salah 5: Shot straight at Alex Meret just past the hour mark. Egypt superstar was not at his searing best.
Roberto Firmino 7: Liveliest member of low-energy front-three. Denied on goal line by Koulibaly.
Sadio Mane 5: Game passed the Senegal live-wire by. Looked for penalty near end of first half when Giovanni Di Lorenzo challenged him.
Georginio Wijnaldum 6: Thrown on in just the 19th minute for crocked Fabinho.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 6: Reds needed a spark and ‘The Ox’ helped provide one with his driving runs.
Trent Alexander-Arnold N/A: X
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