Liverpool welcomed Champions League football back at Anfield after a two season-break. Their opponents Sevilla had ended their last season’s Champions League campaign in England at Leicester and began this season’s campaign also in England. The two best sides in Group E were meeting each other in the tournament opener, and the game did not disappoint.
Well, it did not disappoint the neutrals and Sevilla fans. Liverpool fans must have been very happy in the first half when the Reds overcame the one goal deficit imposed by Ben Yedder’s 5th-minute goal. Between that goal and half time, Liverpool continually attacked Sevilla’s goal and were rewarded with twice – one brilliantly created goal for Firmino and a lucky strike for Mohamed Salah.
But as Liverpool tired in the second half, their intensity decreased, allowing Sevilla to gain control. In the 72nd minute, substitute Luis Muriel split Liverpool’s central defence with an easy through pass and Joaquin Correa was at hand the put away the equaliser. The match produced several exciting moments including Jurgen Klopp haranguing the Sevilla coaching staff at the end of the proceedings.
Here are three things that I found the most interesting.
Liverpool’s Defence Remains Fragile
On Saturday, in the horror-show against Manchester City, everyone including me were quick to say that Klavan was the weak link in Liverpool’s defence and Klopp should not have rotated him in instead of Dejan Lovren. So last night, Lovren decided that he will not stay behind in defensive weaknesses and promptly handed an advantage to Sevilla by not clearing the ball that Ben Yedder put away. The centre-backs were ill-positioned for Sevilla’s second also.
If the central defence was awry, the full-backs did not cover themselves in glory either. Moreno was brilliant in attack but was a sending-off waiting to happen in defence. Joe Gomez at the other end was not as lucky and was indeed sent off in the dying moments of the game. If Liverpool are to meet their fans’ lofty aspirations this season, they need better defending than what they have served up in the last two matches. For the second consecutive game, they have leaked more goals than what they should have – 2 goals vs xG of 1.32.
In Attack, Liverpool Need More Precision
An interesting what-if question I came across after the Manchester City game was – “What if Mohamed Salah had scored one or two of the several chances that Liverpool created before the Mane red card?” Liverpool fans were left to ask similar questions after last night. What if Firmino had scored from the penalty? What if Emre Can had not shot wide or Mane straight to the keeper? An xG of 2.31 against 2 actual goals scored show that the Reds attacked a lot but were wayward or weak in the final product. Liverpool had that xG (2.31) from 24 shots and scored just two of them. Sevilla had an xG of 1.32 from just 7 shots and scored twice from them. All the pace cannot get Liverpool the final product. They need to get better at scoring more goals from the infinite shots they seem to create.
Distracted Jurgen Klopp
For the second game running, Liverpool’s manager appears to be off-form. Against Manchester City, he was nowhere as animated as he generally is in his technical area. Last night, he was active till his team were winning, but in the second half, he started getting distracted by the antics of Sevilla’s manager, who was sent off for them.
Whether this caused him to react late or whether he reverted to his old habits, I felt that he took a few minutes too many to introduce Daniel Sturridge and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. If they had a few more minutes, they might have had a better impact. What struck me as completely atypical was that, unlike his usual habit of hugging his players after a game, he was shouting at the Sevilla bench after the final whistle. Liverpool fans will be hoping that these two games are an aberration and their charismatic manager will revert to his old form against Burnley on Saturday.
For Liverpool to have any sort of success this season, it is important that they make their attacks count and even more important that they negate the opponents’ attacks. Last night, they did not do either.