Jack Hallows looks back at the major talking points from a huge win that saw Liverpool Football Club qualify for the knockout rounds of the UCL.
WE’VE CONQUERED ALL OF EUROPE (at Anfield) WE’RE NEVER GONNA STOP!!!
That was more like it from Klopp’s Liverpool who made it three from three at home in the Champions League this season.
Of course, the less said about the away record this campaign the better but it matters not, nine points has ended up the magic number for Liverpool to qualify for the knockout rounds for the second year running.
On goal difference of all things!
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It was a decent performance from some players and a fantastic night for others against the Italian side, so let’s have a look at the five major talking points from the match!
Alisson Becker & Virgil van Dijk: The £140m bargain
I never thought I’d say a sentence like this a couple of years ago but the £140m Liverpool shelled out on defensive pair Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk looks like an absolute bargain.
Alisson was imperious throughout, claiming almost everything that came his way and making a number of decent stops.
The Brazilian then made one of the most phenomenal saves I’ve seen this season in stoppage time to deny Arkadiusz Milik what looked a certain goal from point blank range.
The second most expensive goalkeeper in history has more than justified his tagline in recent weeks with a number of good stops keeping Liverpool in games or maintaining leads and this was the absolute pick of the bunch.
In front of him and slightly to the left, Virgil van Dijk – the most expensive defender in history – is also justifying his own tagline.
The Dutchman was yet again a wall in the heart of Liverpool’s defence, making countless interceptions, blocks and clearances while also winning most of his aerial battles and tackling hard and well. Could even have scored with a half-volley at the back post that just didn’t quite fall for him.
Was booked early on which unfortunately means he will miss the first leg of Liverpool’s round of 16 game when European competition kicks off again in February which is a shame.
Sadio Mané is such an incredible player in both respects of the word.
On his day, he’s genuinely unstoppable with his combination of strength, pace and determination making him a real threat. During his time at Liverpool, he’s also managed to score and assist some hugely important goals in some hugely important games.
At other times, however, he really does look a muddled mess of a player.
The Senegalese international had the ball in the back of the net early on only to be ruled out offside and it was all downhill from there for the Reds no.10.
The winger spurned a number of sitters and while he worked hard and impressed with his defensive duties and pressure on the Napoli backline, his lack of composure and dreadful finishing was startling.
To about sum up Mané’s night, you just have to look at his chance in the dying embers of the game where he broke through one on one and looked ironed on to add some gloss to the scoreline, only to fire wide from 12 yards.
There was plenty of fume when the pre-match lineups were released and it was evident that Klopp had decided to field a 4-3-3 with that trio of Milner, Wijnaldum and Henderson making up the midfield.
The three had been fantastic against PSG at Anfield earlier in the season but that game aside, had looked laboured, one-dimensional and lacklustre whenever fielded together.
They evidently had clear instructions, however, to work hard as they always will but also to be progressive and help the Reds get forward.
Wijnaldum and Milner rotated the duties of making forward runs, past even the forwards and right into the box while Henderson – especially in the second half – seemed to strike a perfect balance of when to aggressively play forward and when to slow the tempo of the game.
It was 90 minutes that showed this midfield can and will work if played in the right circumstances and against the right opponents which is encouraging, not least from a squad depth point of view.
That said, however, I don’t want to see it against United this weekend.
Another game, another goal for Salah
He’s had a slower start to the season than he might have liked but recent games have provided a timely reminder of just how good Mohamed Salah is.
The Egyptian assisted the sucker punch goal after coming off the bench against Burnley middle of last week, scored a sensational hat-trick at the weekend and now, scored the goal to put Liverpool through to the knockouts of a competition that he now has 14 goals in for the club already.
The Egyptian’s goal was vintage Salah, drop of the shoulder to get away from his full-back, strength, quick feet and a burst of pace to take Koulibaly out of the equation and a slick, perfectly placed finish to beat Ospina.
What a player, what a goal.
Could’ve had a couple more himself throughout and was a constant threat to Napoli both creatively and through chances himself. The one goal, however, was more than enough in the end.
Thursday nights? No thanks!
I don’t about you but personally, if we’d have lost or drawn this game and gone out of the Champions League, the last thing I’d want to see is us ending up playing in the Europa League on Thursday nights.
It’s widely felt by Premier League players, fans and coaches alike that Europe’s second tier competition is a hindrance more than a help for a lot of English sides with those who are in it often fighting either for a top four place or even on occasion for the title.
The games being held on Thursday nights, often in destinations that require tough travel and on pitches that are less than adequate contributes to players accumulating extra fatigue, far more injury regularity and puts managers in a muddle as to their selections as more often than not, they have to prioritise one or the other deep into a campaign.
I’m very happy then, to see us qualify for the next round of the Champions League and continue playing on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, giving our players ample time between fixtures and also, the chance to play on better pitches, get experience in potentially harsher atmospheres and also, compete against Europe’s very best for at least another pair of games.
C’mon you Redmen.