Liverpool ended Napoli’s flawless Champions League record with victory at Anfield but still had to settle for second place in Group A.
Jurgen Klopp’s side were looking to bounce back from Saturday’s home defeat by Leeds United and their spirits will be lifted by late goals from Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez which ended the impressive Serie A leaders’ unbeaten 21-game run.
Liverpool never looked remotely like securing the four-goal winning margin they would have needed against Napoli – who have exerted complete domination over the group – to finish top, but these three points will act as a real boost to morale.
Thiago Alcantara brought a save from Napoli keeper Alex Meret in the first half, while Napoli thought they had broken the deadlock after the break only for defender Leo Ostigard’s header from a free-kick to be ruled out for offside after a lengthy video assistant referee (VAR) examination.
A game of few chances looked to be heading for a draw but Liverpool snatched the win when Mohamed Salah forced home a close-range finish with five minutes to go, with Nunez sealing the deal in added time.
“I would have really enjoyed the game even without the goals,” Klopp told BT Sport.
“We showed tonight a reaction. Being compact makes all the difference. We have challenges in the right placed and are difficult to play against. You see what Napoli are able to do in the moment.
“It was a really good game for us. A lot of courage and bravery, going into challenges and making a fight of it. Two set-pieces bring us the points and 15 points in a Champions League group is insane.”
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Konate shows his class
The vulnerability of Liverpool’s defence, not helped by a struggling midfield, has been one of the features of their disappointing start to the season but Ibrahima Konate showed what they have been missing as they confirmed a slot in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Konate suffered a pre-season knee injury that forced him to miss the start of the campaign, then he was sidelined again by a further muscle problem that saw Liverpool’s rearguard struggle badly without him.
The 23-year-old France defender returned against the formidable Napoli attack and gave an outstanding display as Liverpool looked a far more secure proposition than they have in recent times.
Konate’s defensive quality alongside Virgil van Dijk kept the dangerous Victor Osimhen at bay, showing composure, pace and physical presence as Napoli suffered the rare taste of defeat.
True, Napoli were not at their most destructive and knew it would take something truly special from Liverpool to turn this group on its head, but the class demonstrated by Konate illustrated exactly why manager Jurgen Klopp will hope this talented young defender can now have an injury-free run for the rest of the season.
Liverpool bounce back
Liverpool’s form and approach have been questioned after defeats by struggling Nottingham Forest and Leeds United – criticism justified given just how poor they were, looking a shadow of the team that spent nearly all of last season in pursuit of a historic quadruple.
Klopp’s team will take great heart from beating Napoli, although context must be given in that the Italians knew only a four-goal margin of defeat would make any difference to the group standings.
It removed a large element of jeopardy from the group, Liverpool’s goals coming so late that there was never any opportunity for Anfield to be whipped up into any sort of frenzy of expectation.
This, however, was an example of what Liverpool can do but also showed the two faces of their season so far. They have beaten Manchester City and Napoli at Anfield without conceding a goal but also suffered those damaging losses to teams who have spent the early part of this term in struggle, as well as losing at Manchester United and Arsenal, two teams they have punished heavily in recent seasons.
Liverpool looked more secure at the back, survived a VAR scare when Odigard thought he had scored, then ended the match on a high with those two late scrambled goals that will act as a real mood changer for manager Klopp, his players and the club’s followers who have been so disappointed by their form so far this season.
The key now is consistency and Liverpool face a serious test of their credentials when they travel to Tottenham, who savoured victory in Marseille that saw them win their group, for a Premier League tie on Sunday.
Player of the match
with an average of 7.48
Squad number22Player nameRamsay
Squad number27Player nameNúñez
Squad number28Player nameFábio Carvalho
Squad number1Player nameAlisson
Squad number9Player nameRoberto Firmino
Squad number43Player nameBajcetic
Squad number5Player nameKonaté
Squad number21Player nameTsimikas
Squad number6Player nameThiago Alcántara
Squad number19Player nameElliott
Squad number4Player namevan Dijk
Squad number7Player nameMilner
Squad number3Player nameFabinho
Squad number17Player nameJones
Squad number66Player nameAlexander-Arnold
Squad number11Player nameMohamed Salah
Squad number77Player nameKvaratskhelia
Squad number9Player nameOsimhen
Squad number55Player nameÖstigard
Squad number3Player nameKim Min-Jae
Squad number68Player nameLobotka
Squad number21Player namePolitano
Squad number99Player nameZambo Anguissa
Squad number17Player nameOlivera
Squad number22Player nameDi Lorenzo
Squad number91Player nameNdombélé
Squad number1Player nameMeret
Squad number11Player nameLozano
Squad number20Player nameZielinski
Squad number7Player nameElmas
Squad number81Player nameRaspadori
Squad number18Player nameSimeone
- 66Alexander-ArnoldBooked at 73minsSubstituted forRamsayat 87′minutes
- 5KonatéBooked at 36mins
- 4van Dijk
- 7MilnerSubstituted forElliottat 48′minutes
- 6Thiago AlcántaraSubstituted forBajceticat 87′minutes
- 9FirminoSubstituted forCarvalhoat 87′minutes
- 17JonesSubstituted forNúñezat 73′minutesBooked at 90mins
- 22Di Lorenzo
- 99Zambo Anguissa
- 68LobotkaSubstituted forZielinskiat 83′minutes
- 91NdombéléSubstituted forRaspadoriat 87′minutes
- 21PolitanoSubstituted forLozanoat 70′minutes
- 9OsimhenSubstituted forSimeoneat 87′minutes
- 77KvaratskheliaSubstituted forElmasat 83′minutes
- 5Nunes Jesus
- 6Mário Rui
- Tobias Stieler
Match ends, Liverpool 2, Napoli 0.
Second Half ends, Liverpool 2, Napoli 0.
VAR Decision: Goal Liverpool 2-0 Napoli (Darwin Núñez).
Goal! Liverpool 2, Napoli 0. Darwin Núñez (Liverpool) left footed shot from very close range to the top left corner following a corner.
Attempt saved. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool) header from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Konstantinos Tsimikas with a cross.
Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Mathías Olivera.
Corner, Napoli. Conceded by Konstantinos Tsimikas.
Offside, Napoli. Alex Meret tries a through ball, but Giacomo Raspadori is caught offside.
Darwin Núñez (Liverpool) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Darwin Núñez (Liverpool).
Eljif Elmas (Napoli) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Leo Östigard.
Corner, Napoli. Conceded by Calvin Ramsay.
Attempt missed. Giacomo Raspadori (Napoli) right footed shot from the left side of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Eljif Elmas following a corner.
Corner, Napoli. Conceded by Ibrahima Konaté.
Calvin Ramsay (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Eljif Elmas (Napoli).
Attempt missed. Fábio Carvalho (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Mohamed Salah.
Substitution, Liverpool. Calvin Ramsay replaces Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Substitution, Liverpool. Stefan Bajcetic replaces Thiago.
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