Champions League: A nightmare start for the European Champions
By Harry Deacon
Liverpool started their quest to defend their European Champions crown, with whimper rather than a bang.
At both ends, the Reds’ performance didn’t exhibit the usual swagger and dominance we have come to expect from Jurgen’s troops.
That is not to discredit their opponents, Napoli. The Serie A side were the deserved winners, registering an expected goal (xG) score of 1.81, whilst Liverpool could only muster up 0.79. They employed a high line that gave the likes of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane good opportunity to attack in behind but neither could beat the young keeper Alex Meret, who can make big claims for the Man of the Match award.
Napoli’s attacking persistence paid off when Jose Callejon was brought down by Andy Robinson in the box to give Dries Mertens the chance to rifle one in to the bottom left hand corner. He did.
A calamity of errors at the back gave Napoli their second. Fernando Llorente striking revenge for his old pals back in Tottenham and a rare sighting of a Virgil Van Dijk slip up tells the story of the night.
Whilst this is far from panic stations for the reigning Champions and they are still well placed to push on into the next rounds. Maybe what it is, is a wake up call that they’ll have to work hard once more to regain the mojo that gave them nights like those in Madrid and the spirit that put four past Barcelona at Anfield.
The curtain for the continent’s premier competition has therefore been raised, but lets hope the headliners can better the warm up acts.