March 20, 2023

Player ratings as Reds end Champions League group stage on a high

Liverpool finished the Champions League group stage by inflicting a first defeat of the season on a Napoli side that had beaten them comfortably in the reverse fixture.

Mohamed Salah, who moved level with Steven Gerrard on 41 Liverpool goals in European competition, eventually broke the deadlock for the Reds, before Darwin Nunez doubled the lead deep into a lengthy period of stoppage time. Napoli also had a goal disallowed at 0-0.

The first half was a hard fought but close affair. Possession was pretty even and neither side created that much in the way of clear chances to score.

The in-form Khvicha Kvaratskhelia made a bright start, but visiting goalkeeper Alex Meret might have expected to be seriously tested much sooner than he was. That came just under half an hour in when the Italian stopper flew across his goal to push Thiago’s first-time shot to safety.

Meret made another outstanding save shortly before half-time to deny Mohamed Salah, although an eventual offside flag ensured it would never have counted.

Jurgen Klopp was forced to turn to his bench early in the first when James Milner was unable to continue, appearing to signal that he was feeling dizzy following an earlier clash of heads at the end of the first half.

Napoli thought they had the lead in the early stages of the second half when former Coventry and Stoke defender Leo Ostigard produced a bullet diving header. However, a VAR check lasting nearly four minutes eventually ruled that the Norwegian’s right ear was offside.

Either way, chances were coming a little more freely in the second period. Not long after the disallowed goal, Kvaratskhelia sent a volley goalward. It was deflected but that probably helped Alisson as it took the ball closer to him.

The goals didn’t come until late for Liverpool and both were very similar in their nature. Each time it was a corner and an initial Meret save, with a rebound converted from close range.

The first saw Darwin Nunez win a header that the Napoli goalkeeper just managed to stop crossing the line, before Salah was on the scene to poke it in. The second, deep into stoppage time, was a bullet header from Virgil van Dijk that Nunez diverted in – the flag initially went up, but VAR showed that Nunez was played onside by Napoli’s Piotr Zielinski.

Darwin Nunez, Mohamed Salah

Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah celebrate / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

GK: Alisson Becker – 6/10 – Made a decent save early in the second half after a deflection off Alexander-Arnold.

RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold – 6/10 – Got forward like he always does.

CB: Ibrahima Konate – 6/10 – Solid against a clearly dangerous side.

CB: Virgil van Dijk – 6/10 – Nowhere to be seen when Napoli’s would be goal was disallowed.

LB: Kostas Tsimikas – 6/10
– Decent on the ball getting forward.

CM: James Milner (c) – 6/10 – Perhaps foolishly tried to push on after a clash of heads but was forced to come off after signalling he felt dizzy.

CM: Fabinho – 7/10 – Strong in possession and stopped Napoli putting too many moves together.

CM: Thiago – 6/10 – Forced Meret into a great first half save.

RF: Mohamed Salah – 7/10 –
Reacted quickest when the ball was loose to score the only goal of the game.

ST: Roberto Firmino – 6/10 – Involved in build up play without getting on the end of that much.

LF: Curtis Jones – 7/10 – Impressed but unsurprisingly didn’t finish the game as he builds up fitness.

SUB: Harvey Elliott (48′ for Milner) – 6/10

SUB: Darwin Nunez (73′ for Jones) – 7/10

SUB: Calvin Ramay (87′ for Alexander-Arnold) – N/A

SUB: Fabio Carvalho (87′ for Firmino) – N/A

SUB: Stefan Bajcetic (87′ for Thiago) – N/A

Manager: Jurgen Klopp – 7/10 – Made a few changes to the starting XI but the arrival of Nunez made a difference.

Giovanni Simeone

Giovanni Simeone reacts with disappointment / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

GK: Alex Meret – 7/10 – Would have expected to be busier. Made a big first half save and almost prevented the Liverpool goal too.

RB: Giovanni Di Lorenzo – 6/10 – Didn’t win enough of his individual battles.

CB: Leo Ostigard – 7/10 – Thought he had scored a fine header but for a very tight offside call made by VAR.

CB: Kim Min-jae – 7/10 – Seemed to get a boot or a head to most balls that came into the box.

LB: Mathias Olivera – 7/10 – Did really well to keep Salah pretty quiet in open play.

CM: Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa – 7/10 – Buzzed around midfield just like he did in the reverse fixture.

CM: Stanislav Lobotka – 7/10 – Fought hard and passed well.

CM: Tanguy Ndombele – 5/10 – Not that involved.

RW: Mateo Politano – 5/10 – Limited touches and creativity.

ST: Victor Osimhen – 6/10 – Looked like he could cause problems with pace but didn’t get the kind of service he needed.

LW: Khvicha Kvaratskhelia – 7/10 – A bright spark and Napoli’s most likely source of a goal from open play.

SUB: Hirving Lozano (70′ for Politano) – 5/10

SUB: Eljif Elmas (83′ for Lobotka) – N/A

SUB: Piotr Zielinski (83′ for Kvaratskhelia) N/A

SUB: Giovanni Simeone (89′ for Osimhen) – N/A

SUB: Giacomo Raspadori (89′ for Ndombele) – N/A

Manager: Luciano Spalletti – 6/10 – Named a strong side and things were going well to a point, but the result didn’t come.

Player of the match – Mathias Olivera

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