Liverpool held Manchester City to a 0-0 draw at Anfield as defences proved the difference in a game which saw the attackers struggle.
Mohamed Salah has been in the spotlight this season after failing to shine in the early months and he again suffered in Sunday’s clash.
Here, we take a closer look at the Egyptian’s performance.
Against Napoli in midweek, Salah reached a personal nadir.
The Egyptian’s first touch resembled repelling magnets, his passing was wildly erratic while he often ran into blocked avenues to stifle Liverpool’s attacking threat.
Against City, he was once again frustrating but equal parts fantastic, too.
The touch and control was much closer to that of last season. He lso buzzed around the pitch with bags of energy, yet the disappointment arrived whenever he had a sight of goal.
He looked hungrier, but remains starved of goals in comparison to last season’s gluttony of 44 strikes in all competitions.
If you required a microcosm of his season so far, it arrived in the 68th minute when his sublime diagonal run from right to left saw him take in Andy Robertson’s pass off an awkward bounce, only to place his poor effort wide.
Regardless, he was Liverpool’s liveliest player. Even if he’s still not quite living up to the heights of last season.
Energy – The biggest criticism of Salah in Naples was his lack of energy, both in attacking and defensive phases. Against City, he was far more vibrant. If only he could have matched his strong showing with confidence in front of goal.
Always available – When you’re out of form, it’s easy to recline into your shell and hide away from the ball. But credit to Salah who continued to try and make inroads and offer himself in dangerous positions, despite Benjamin Mendy’s own attacking impetus being strangled to marshall the Liverpool forward.
Finishing – No awards for guessing this would be mentioned. The complexion of Salah’s performance would be decidedly different had he finished two of the golden opportunities. One was trademark Salah in build-up and shadow Salah in the finish, as he cut inside onto his left but curled straight into the arms of Ederson. The other was previously mentioned shot from Robertson’s pass.
Passing – Aside from James Milner, who exited the game before the half hour through injury, Salah possessed the worst pass success rate of any Liverpool player in the starting XI with 71.4 per cent. Now this may point to him opting for riskier passes to help break down the City defence, or as was the case on occasion, it was simple balls going astray.
Promising, but still far from perfect. He was Liverpool’s best player from an attacking perspective – although that’s not the greatest barometer considering the performances of Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. The blunt attack is something Jurgen Klopp must be very concerned about right now.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com
The only moment of note was the late City penalty, given away by Virgil van Dijk for a foul on Leroy Sane, which was blazed over the bar by Riyad Mahrez.
Here are our ratings for the Reds:
Alisson – Very quiet game and only called on to make one save of note, late in the second half. Accurate distribution of 80 per cent. 6
Joe Gomez – Shocking mistake to almost gift Aguero a goal. Dealt reasonably well with Raheem Sterling but Benjamin Mendy caused him issues. Got down the right in the second half, without being able to deliver the telling cross. 6
Dejan Lovren – Very fortunate not to give up a penalty on Aguero in first half. But produced two superb one-on one-tackles in second half – one on Mahrez and the other on Jesus. 7
Virgil van Dijk – Called on to make some big defensive plays in first half. Strong in the air but gave away the penalty with a clumsy lunge on Sane. Luckily for him, Mahrez missed. 6
Andrew Robertson – Got down the left well without delivering that telling ball. A good battle with Mahrez that finished even. 6
Gini Wijnaldum – Some sharp touches early on, but space was limited by City’s speedy centre midfield. Faded as the game went on. 5
Riyad Mahrez’s penalty was bad. Very bad. pic.twitter.com/5FHInsF33R— FPL Vinnie 🇨🇽 (@FPLVinnie) October 7, 2018
Jordan Henderson – Solid in defence but unable to spark the Liverpool front three. Came into the game more in the second half, but again, could not find the killer pass. 6
James Milner – Number of poorly directed passes in first half, and seemed a little off the pace, substituted on 29 minutes due to injury with Naby Keita coming on. 5
Mohamed Salah – Plenty of effort and lots of runs but just did not receive the necessary service in the first 45, when he got some chances in the second half could not use them. 6
Roberto Firmino – Suffocated out of the game by the smothering City press, tried hard but just could not get into the match, substituted on 72 minutes for Daniel Sturridge. 4
Sadio Mane – Tried to find some room all game but contained comfortably by the City back four and Fernandinho. Like Salah, well off his magic touch of last season. 5
Naby Keita – Recovered from his back spasm midweek and was called on in the first 30 minutes to replace the stricken Milner. Kept busy with 31 touches. 6
Daniel Sturridge – Thrown on for Firmino. Got a header on target on 78 minutes, but easily saved. 5
In one of the worst performances of his reign, the Reds were poor in possession and that handed the initiative to their hosts who dominated throughout.
It was the first time since February 2006, in the 1-0 defeat to Benfica, they had failed to register a single shot on target in a Champions League match.
“A big part of that performance was my fault for sure but I need at least one night to watch it again and see what was the fault but it was not like it should have looked,” said Klopp.
“I am pretty sure the reasons will be obvious and then we will sort that but we were not good enough and normally if you are not good enough you lose games.
“When you have the ball you have to play much calmer.
“If you looked how we played you would have thought they were always on us – we could have played calmer but we didn’t.
“The first half was kind of OK but the second half was not good enough and it’s always a bad sign to say when you goalkeeper is your best player.
“No attempts on target, I don’t remember when that happened last time.
“I think we had a big part in that because we can play much better. No shot on target is not enough.
“They had a good game, we didn’t, that’s why they deserved the three points. For the exact reason I am not 100 per cent cent sure.”
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) October 3, 2018
Liverpool lost Naby Keita to injury midway through the first half, with the £53million summer arrival departing on a medical cart and taken for further examination.
Klopp does not yet know the extent of the problem.
“It is his back, that’s what I heard. I don’t know exactly. We have to wait.”
Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti extended his personal record against Liverpool to six wins and three defeats.
“I think we interpreted the game really well, we changed a bit – but not too much – the way we played with an extra central defender,” said the Italian.
“We were able to keep possession. Overall it was a very good approach from the team, there was a perfect balance to avoid the attack and managed their strong strikers up front.
“It gives a lot of character to the team and it’s great we kept the same mentality from the start to the end. It gives great self-confidence to the players.”