Penalty call was game changer for Liverpool, says Jurgen Klopp

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Jurgen Klopp questioned the awarding of a penalty to Napoli which he felt proved decisive as Liverpool started the defence of their Champions League crown on a bum note.

The Reds lacked a cutting edge but would have been worthy of a point at the intimidating Stadio San Paolo, only for the Group E opener to hinge on Jose Callejon being upended in the area by Andy Robertson.

Dries Mertens converted from the spot in the 82nd minute before Virgil Van Dijk lost the ball on the edge of the area in stoppage time, allowing former Tottenham striker Fernando Llorente to seal a 2-0 win for Napoli.

Liverpool manager Klopp said: “When we conceded to go 1-0 down that was the game changer. We have to accept the result.

“We are really critical of ourselves but it was not a really, really bad performance, it was a game which we could have won at Napoli but we didn’t because we didn’t score.

“We wanted to have at least a point and we didn’t get that because of the penalty. I’m pretty sure there are different views on that situation but when a player jumps before there is contact then it cannot be a penalty.

“But we cannot change that anymore so that’s how it is and now we carry on, that’s it.”

The Reds’ strong appeals for a penalty against Newcastle at the weekend fell on deaf ears but they maintained their 100 per cent winning start to the Premier League season by beating the Magpies 3-1.

Tuesday night’s decision proved central to the outcome but Klopp refused to be too critical of the process involving the video assistant referee.

He added: “I could say a lot of things about it but then I would look like a bad loser. I’m not the best loser in the world but I’m not bad at it.

“It was very decisive in that moment for sure but we can’t change it. As long as human beings make the decisions then there is still potential for (mistakes). The rules are like this and we trust in the rules.”

The visitors, barracked throughout in a hostile atmosphere in Naples, lost the corresponding fixture between the sides last season en route to being defeated in every group stage game away from Anfield.

The Merseysiders managed to pip Napoli to the knockout stages by virtue of goals scored and went on to lift the European Cup for the sixth time in their history.

Klopp believes Napoli are more than capable of going all the way this season.

He added: “They can win the competition. If you have a good plan and good players, which they obviously have, then they can win the competition. We experienced that.

“You don’t have to be the best team in the world to win the Champions League. You have to be there in the right moments and you have to be lucky in some situations.”

Napoli counterpart Carlo Ancelotti welcomed Klopp’s assessment of his side as potential winners.

The Italian said: “If Jurgen Klopp says that we have the ability to go on and win the Champions League then I say to him, ‘thank you very much’ because he’s a coach that knows football inside out.

“But there is still a very long way to go. Our first objective is to try to get through to the knockout stages.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Ernesto Valverde lauds Marc-Andre Ter Stegen after goalkeeper helps Barcelona grab draw

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Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde admitted his side were indebted to the heroics of goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen after ‘suffering’ in the goalless Champions League opener at Borussia Dortmund.

The German had already been called upon once too often before making a remarkable double save following a penalty from Marco Reus, albeit appearing to be well off his line.

Dortmund also hit the crossbar through substitute Julian Brandt and on another night could easily have been on the end of a defeat from their opening Group F fixture.

Valverde gave 16-year-old Ansu Fati a first Champions League start, while Lionel Messi was brought on for the closing stages having recovered from a calf problem which had prevented him from playing so far this season.

Defender Jordi Alba, meanwhile, was forced off late in the first half with a suspected thigh injury.

Barcelona will next host Inter Milan on October 2, when the outlook could be more positive following what has been a testing start to the new campaign, with just two wins so far.

“It was a difficult game in a great atmosphere. We had to suffer a lot, especially after the break when we lost control and they were very dangerous,” said Valverde.

“We seemed dominant, but then we had three or four loose balls picked off us and Dortmund counter-attacked with their traditional speed, which they are very good at.

“Dortmund made it complicated for us, but fortunately Marc has been very good. We have to thank Marc for his outstanding saves. We have a great goalkeeper and we benefit from that.”

Valverde added at a press conference: “We suffered here, I have to admit – but we knew we would need to.”

Messi had little opportunity to make an impact on the final outcome, seeing his only real opportunity blocked deep into stoppage time.

Valverde admitted it would be a while before the Argentina playmaker was up to full speed again.

“He is like any player who has not done the pre-season. He has had to play a game at an incredible pace, which had already started – and he has done it just without preparation,” the Barcelona coach added.

“It is his first 30 minutes (of the new season), he has done enough.”

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PSG star Neymar's Champions League ban cut to two games

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Paris St Germain forward Neymar has had his three-match Champions League ban for insulting match officials reduced to two games by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The 27-year-old was punished over social media comments made in the wake of his side’s controversial 3-1 home defeat by Manchester United in March which denied them a place in the Champions League quarter-finals.

PSG challenged the decision and – after UEFA had initially dismissed the claim – the Ligue 1 champions appealed to CAS – who ruled on Tuesday that the Brazil international will now serve a two-match suspension.

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