Liverpool slumped to a 1-0 loss at Napoli on Wednesday thanks to a 90th minute winner from Lorenzo Insigne, a result that sees them drop to second in Champions League Group C, level on points with Paris Saint-Germain.
Mohamed Salah‘s quiet game for the Reds was a key reason they came up short, as the winger was well-marshalled by Napoli’s defenders and barely had an impact on the game.
Here’s a closer look at his performance.
Goals – 0
Shots – 2
Assists – 0
Passing Accuracy – 72%
Touches – 36
Dribbles – 0
Dispossessed – 3
Salah took up his familiar berth on the right wing but never got going on Wednesday, delivering a subdued performance in which he was the most ineffective player on the pitch.
It was not for a lack of trying, but this was a night where nothing came off for the Egyptian as the Napoli defenders had the measure of him. He put in a fair amount of effort defensively, but couldn’t contribute in the way Liverpool needed him most.
When a player is having a poor game, the most anyone can ask for is that he continues to put in the effort. Salah’s work rate was commendable, as he remained a diligent part of the Liverpool press, and chased down whichever Napoli player had the ball in his area.
He didn’t track back much – Salah staying high up the pitch is part of what makes the Liverpool counter so dangerous – but in all other aspects, this was a hard-working performance.
Drifted out of the game
Salah was barely involved, in an attacking sense. His 36 touches were the fewest touches of any player who started the game, barring his team-mate Naby Keita who went off injured in the 19th minute. Even Napoli keeper David Ospina had more touches of the ball.
Poor in possession
The 26-year-old was also ineffective when he did get on the ball. He misplaced nearly 30 per cent of his passes, and was dispossessed three times – stats that show just how off-colour Salah was on the night.
Salah’s latest return to Italy was much less triumphant than his previous one, when Liverpool edged past his former club Roma in last season’s Champions League semi-final. In truth, through ten appearances this season the star forward hasn’t reached last season’s heights, thrilling only sporadically.
This was a performance where he didn’t thrill at all, as he struggled to make an impact, or get going at all. This was among his worst displays in a Liverpool shirt.
RATING – 5/10
Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona defeated Tottenham 4-2 in a masterful display at Wembley to inch towards progression from Group B in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Spurs’ Champions League hopes received a big blow, having lost both their opening two fixtures and they have a huge challenge in aiming to reach the last 16.
Here are our Tottenham players ratings as we look at who did well and who fell short of expectations.
Hugo Lloris – 4: Made an embarrassing howler for the opening goal and a similar error later on. Never looked secure or confident.
Kieran Trippier – 5: Definitely second best in his personal duel with Alba but never stopped working and was tireless up and down the flank.
Toby Alderweireld – 5: Had a physical battle with Suarez and came off second best but stuck to his task. Booked for a foul on Coutinho.
Davinson Sanchez – 6: An unfortunate slip for the opener but responded to look the strongest of Tottenham’s defenders, making some excellent tackles.
Ben Davies – 5: Couldn’t make much headway down the left flank, understandably preoccupied with attempting to stop Messi.
Victor Wanyama – 4: Given a real run-around and was booked for fouling Messi. Had his misery cut short by being substituted before the hour.
Harry Winks – 5: Tried to provide composure to an otherwise ragged Spurs midfield, but often looked out of his depth.
Lucas Moura – 6: Started on the right wing before switching to the left in the second half, and was a big threat in the latter stages.
Erik Lamela – 6: Struggled to make an impact and was often erratic, but produced a big moment with a deflected goal.
Heung-Min Son – 5: Occasionally found some space down the right wing and got into some good positions, but couldn’t make them count.
Harry Kane – 7: Scored a superbly taken goal early in the second half and worked hard to lead the home team’s line in a battling display.
Eric Dier – 6: Came on for Wanyama early in the second half and looked a much safer bet, showing far greater control with his passing.
Moussa Sissoko – 6: Entered the fray down the right wing for the final 25 minutes, but had minimal impact and struggled with Alba.
Fernando Llorente – 5: A late entrant to add some more power to Tottenham’s front line, but was well shackled by the visitors.
It was nothing more than the home side deserved in Naples, Lorenzo Insigne getting on the end of Jose Callejon’s brilliant low cross in stoppage time to poke in the winner.
Here is our report card from the Stadio San Paolo.
After bossing Paris Saint-Germain on opening night, Liverpool launched themselves into the ascendancy. But as terrific as they were at Anfield, they looked timid in Naples as their free-flowing attack was first stunted by an organised home defence and then outshone by the increasingly encouraged hosts.
A lifeless first half was replaced by a far more engaging second 45 minutes – it would not have been hard to better it. Alisson was a colossus between the sticks for the visitors as he alertly kept out Arkadiusz Milik and Insigne. He was helpless however as Callejon’s devilish ball was tucked home by Insigne.
As PSG purred earlier in their 6-1 ravaging of Red Star Belgrade, there was plenty here for Jurgen Klopp to ponder.
Virgil van Dijk – Much of the focus is usually on Liverpool’s vivacious attack and the destruction they cause. But while this game in Naples wasn’t much of an attacking spectacle, there was plenty to admire in the Reds’ rearguard solidity overall. Questions and eyebrows were raised when a princely £75 million sum was paid for Virgil van Dijk in January 2017. No questions remain now and the only eyebrows raised are at the suggestion that there is a finer centre-back in world football.
Dries Mertens – Questions will be raised over the decision not to start him, but the diminutive Belgian answered his team’s call when he was summoned from the bench with his side having acquired the upper-hand. Already starting to get stretched, Liverpool were desperately clinging to their hard-earned point as Mertens marauded into the spaces rapidly being opened up in their back-line. He should have scored himself but just as the Reds thought they’d earned a reprieve, it was ripped away.
The first half – It’s safe to say a lot was expected from this encounter, but it failed to live up to the billing in the opening 45 minutes. The two sides are mirror images of each other in many ways, the impish attacking talents of Insigne, Mertens and Callejon going up against dynamic Liverpool trio Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
It should have provided both sets of fans with plenty to look forward to, but neither side could quite find the spark to ignite the game initially.
Liverpool’s three amigos – At first glance, a point away from home in the Champions League is not to be sniffed at, especially at opponents as illustrious as Napoli. But Klopp will unlikely have witnessed such a disjointed display from his stunning attacking trio during his tenure – his team failed to muster a single shot on target.
Mohamed Salah’s woes continued as the home side’s regimented defence were stout in a Carlo Ancelotti masterclass – a manager leading his eighth club in the Champions League. Salah’s 65.2 per cent pass success was the worst of any outfield player bar late substitute Daniel Sturridge, while he and Sadio Mane were dispossessed a team high three times. Roberto Firmino was similarly anonymous.
TACTICAL TURNING POINT
Dries lightning – As time ticked away, perhaps Ancelotti might have taken a pragmatic approach and settled for a point. But he sensed his side were getting on top as Liverpool looked increasingly more ragged, and introduced the livewire Belgian – it was odd he had not started – who tried to light the blue touch paper. He probed, prodded, chased and harried as the visitors desperately tried to cling on.
Always in control during a dull first half and then taking the initiative as the game belatedly opened up in the second, it looked for so long as if Napoli’s efforts would go unrewarded. They were made to wait but their stoppage time winner was nothing less than what they deserved, finished off by the industrious Insigne, who finished the night as captain.
Setting up his team to be difficult to beat is not really a Klopp trait – even in big European away games such as this. If Napoli had been more clinical or possessed a little more stardust in attack, and didn’t have Alisson in the opposite goal, Liverpool would have been sunk much earlier. But the Reds will look ahead and they now have a double-header against group minnows Red Star.