“We need to reinvent ourselves.” A big statement, right there, as Liverpool’s season threatens to spiral out of control. It could be an interesting few weeks at Anfield. Anyway, thanks for reading this MBM. Nighty night!
Klopp speaks to BT. “It was really tough to take. Not that difficult to explain when you saw the game. First and foremost, Napoli played a really good game, and we didn’t. That is the first explanation for the defeat. The two penalties we concede were a bit unlucky but only one goes in. Then the next two goals we serve on a plate, pretty much. That is not cool. We had chances but were never really in the game. We were not compact, neither defensively nor offensively. Until Thiago entered the pitch, I cannot remember one counter-pressing situation. We were not connected. Everything was obvious. Why it happened is now the question. I cannot answer it now, but give me a little time to think about it. It’s really tough to take but obviously I have to take it. It looks like we have to re-invent ourselves. There are a lot of things lacking. In three days we play Wolves, and if they saw the game tonight, they cannot stop laughing. They would say: it’s the perfect moment. I would say it’s the perfect moment! But we have to try to find a set-up to be much better in pretty much everything. We were not working as a team. It is nothing to do with personal stuff, or pointing at each other. In football, the solution to problems is always football. But we don’t play good enough, it’s clear. That’s obvious. It’s tough, but we still have a job to do. It is my responsibility, and that’s my job to find it out. We have to reset and go.”
Jurgen Klopp’s response will come in a few minutes, so don’t leave us yet. But in the meantime, Andy Hunter’s report has landed. “A rupture occurred in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius,” he begins. “It was Liverpool, ripped apart and destroyed by Napoli on a humiliating night …”
Andy Robertson speaks to BT. “"We were miles too open. You can’t come to a place like this and not be compact. We had chances. They were the miles better team. But when we’re a team that presses and you miss one challenge, you need somebody to follow it up and back his mate up. But too many times they had big opens spaces to run into and send balls in behind to cause our centre-backs problems. We have to get back to basics. Unfortunately, we deserved this result. They found so many spaces. It felt like they had an extra man, and that’s not like us. You have to be ready to fight, and I don’t think we were close enough to our mate when they went to press the ball, I don’t think people were backing them up quick enough. When you do that, you get picked off like we did. We deserve it, we need to waken up and quickly. We can’t perform like that.”
Not a great night for the British teams in Group A, then. Liverpool will hope to bounce back against Ajax at Anfield next Tuesday, while Rangers look to do likewise when they host Napoli. Both teams will have to seriously up their game if they’re to achieve these particular goals.
A good night for Jordan Henderson, if few others associated with Liverpool. Luis Diaz scored an excellent goal, while Harvey Elliott showed some fight. And Thiago is back. But these are slim pickings. Last season’s runners-up were blown away by Napoli, for whom Victor Osimhan was borderline unplayable. Piotr Zieliński and André-Frank Zambo Anguissa weren’t too shabby either. In fact, Napoli were to a man excellent, though they’ll be set far tougher tests than this. A flaccid mess tonight, Liverpool are in danger of letting this season spiral out of control. They’re currently in a three-way battle for sole possession of the Crisis Baton with Chelsea and Leicester City. Game on!
FULL TIME: Napoli 4-1 Liverpool
Napoli were magnificent. As well as scoring four, they also missed a penalty, hit the post, and had a shot cleared off the line. A 7-1 rout wouldn’t flatter them at all. Liverpool were abject, a pale shadow of the team that reached the final back in May.
90 min +3: A 4-1 loss is still pretty hefty, though, filed alongside 3-0 drubbings at Real Madrid (2014) and Barcelona (2019).
90 min +2: Napoli press an exhausted opposition back, without ever really threatening to break through for a fifth goal that would equal Liverpool’s worst-ever defeat in Europe’s premier competition. For the record, that’s the aforementioned 5-1 defeat at emerging Ajax in 1966.
90 min: There will be four minutes of additional time.
89 min: Alexander-Arnold digs out a cross from the byline to the right of goal. Nobody in red gets anywhere near it, but Rrahmani heads out for a corner just in case. Nothing comes from the set piece.
88 min: Thiago sashays out of a tight spot in the middle of the park and slides a ball forward for Nunez, who has his back to goal on the edge of the box. Nunez tries to tee up Jota, but nothing’s going right for Liverpool’s new striker right now.
86 min: Napoli race upfield on a three on two. Zerbin makes his way to the edge of the Liverpool box and curls powerfully towards the top right. But it’s well telegraphed and easy for Alisson.
84 min: Some space for Arthur out on the right. His low cross is blocked out for a corner. Alexander-Arnold takes. It’s easily cleared. What Liverpool would give for hearing the final whistle now.
82 min: Jota tries to wriggle after a Thiago pass, but is crowded out in the box. Another Liverpool goal would seriously flatter the visitors. This scoreline’s pretty flattering as it is.
80 min: Diaz’s goal momentarily sucked the life out of the stadium, but the home fans have long got over that, and are now singing away in a very mellow, contented style. Making their own fun, with precious little going on, the game having been won some time ago.
78 min: Meret goes down having been winded in an aerial duel with Nunez. Double good news for Napoli: the keeper caught the ball, and after a quick once-over from the doctor, is good to continue.
77 min: Arthur Melo comes on for his Liverpool debut. He replaces Elliott.
76 min: Liverpool are astonishingly lacklustre. Very little verve on display, with only Elliott, Diaz and Thiago showing any sort of drive. Here’s Kári Tulinius: “Lately there’s been lots of comparisons drawn with Klopp’s final season in Dortmund, but if memory serves, the underlying numbers were always good, and the ball just didn’t bounce their way. Right now Liverpool feels like a clock with springs sproinging out the back and pointers flying every which way.”
74 min: Napoli make a double change. Olivera and the two-goal hero Zielinski make way for Mario Rui and Elmas.
73 min: Nunez goes on a dribble down the left but is easily dispossessed by Rrahmani.
71 min: Lozano latches onto a loose ball by the left-hand corner of the Liverpool D, but his weak shot dribbles harmlessly wide of the left-hand post. Alisson had it covered all the way.
69 min: Elliott rolls a cute pass down the right to release Nunez into the box. He drops a shoulder to send Di Lorenzo sliding away, but then inexplicably tries to beat the stricken defender on the outside, succeeding only in slapping the ball straight at him. Napoli clear, and the chance to take a shot from a tight angle is gone.
68 min: Napoli, for the first time this evening, are discombobulated by the Liverpool press. The ball breaks to Nunez, who tries to flipper a shot into the bottom right. It’s blocked and cleared without too much fuss.
66 min: Alexander-Arnold hoicks the free kick miles over everyone’s head. What a waste. Liverpool’s entire evening has been a compendium of gaffes and blunders.
65 min: Diaz looks to break clear down the left, but is unceremoniously scythed down in Milneresque fashion by Rrahmani, who goes into the book. Free kick in a dangerous position, and Liverpool load the box.
63 min: Liverpool make a triple change. Milner, Firmino and £350k-a-week Salah make way for Thiago, Jota and Nunez.
62 min: Alexander-Arnold crosses viciously from the right. Diaz channels his inner Keith Houchen and sends a flying header goalwards … but straight at Meret, who tips over the bar spectacularly. Nothing comes of the resulting corner. Meanwhile Colum Fordham is watching from Naples but on TV. “The Italian commentators stated the roar from the stadium after Zielinski’s penalty reached 113 decibels, slightly more than a pneumatic drill or a plane taking off. And the screams of delight from my lane have been arguably more powerful.”
60 min: Lozano releases Simeone on goal with a lob over Liverpool’s back line. For once, the offside trap is in good nick, and the flag pops up to save the day for the visitors.
58 min: Napoli make a double change. Kvaratskhelia and Politano make way for Lozano and Zerbin. “That Luiz goal could be the spark for an unlikely old-school European comeback,” begins Matt Dony. “And if that were to happen, it would be great. But, if I’m honest, I hope it doesn’t. Something is wrong this season. An emotional comeback would mask that. Losing this game shouldn’t necessarily affect qualification, but a comprehensive shoeing could be a good thing in the long run.” Aye, just look at Bournemouth. Four points in two games after that 9-0.
56 min: Robertson crosses to nobody in particular. Kvaratskhelia tears off on the counter, running nearly the entire length of the pitch, before running into trouble on the edge of the Liverpool box.
54 min: Alexander-Arnold dinks a pass down the right for Salah, whose persistence wins a corner. Liverpool have had plenty of these, if not much else. Alexander-Arnold’s delivery is easily cleared.
53 min: Kvaratskhelia skins Alexander-Arnold with absurd ease down the left. He can’t get past Matip, though, but for a second there, Liverpool looked exposed yet again. Their defence is in ruins.
51 min: Alexander-Arnold sends a diagonal pass towards Robertson on the left. Robertson beats Di Lorenzo and rolls back for Diaz, who dummies a couple of times to make space for another shot. This one, intended for the top right, flies wide and high, maybe with the aid of a deflection, but Liverpool aren’t getting the corner.
GOAL! Napoli 4-1 Liverpool (Diaz 49)
An immediate response, as Diaz cuts inside from the left, drops a shoulder, and whips an unstoppable shot across Meret and into the bottom right! What a finish, and it’s Liverpool’s first-ever goal in Naples, but chances are it’s not going to do them much good. What a weird match this is!
GOAL! Napoli 4-0 Liverpool (Zielinski 47)
This is so easy. So embarrassing for Liverpool. Lobotka slips a long pass down the right for Simeone, who passes infield for Zielinski. He’s free! He slams a low shot straight at Alisson, who parries well, but the ball breaks back to Zielinksi who calmly dinks over the stricken keeper and into the net! What a start to the half!
46 min: Liverpool win a quick corner. Matip rises highest, but his downwards header is easy for Meret. And then …
Liverpool get the ball rolling for the second half. They’ve made one fairly predictable change: Joe Gomez, who was flailing around in a worrying fashion, has been replaced by Joel Matip.
The lads in the BT Sport studio aren’t too happy either. Robbie Fowler questions Liverpool’s desire: “Their defence has been absolutely shocking.” Rio Ferdinand adds: “That’s an embarrassing 45 minutes. What you can’t accept is a lack of effort, of desire. It’s just not good enough.” Perhaps the most damning statement was made by the normally placid Michael Owen, who admits: “I think Liverpool fans have been expecting this for a little while. The performances haven’t been great. They’re being shown up.”
It’s worth remembering that Napoli have also hit a post, missed a penalty and had a shot cleared off the line. So with that in mind – and I’d love to know the xG scoreline after that first half, it can’t be far off 6-0 – here’s the HALF-TIME POSTBAG!
“I’m a Liverpool fan and I love Joe Gomez. He was outstanding against Everton on Saturday and tonight he is a shambles and that’s exactly why he’ll never be an elite defender. The best are consistent, unfortunately he isn’t” – Gareth Aherne.
“Klopp now understands the ‘is Napoli safe?’ question from that reporter” – Jeff Sachs.
“Tuchel and his staff may have a new job quicker than expected” – Brendan Large.
“Should Liverpool sign Harry Maguire as cover for Gomez?” – Niall O’Keeffe.
HALF TIME: Napoli 3-0 Liverpool
The whistle goes, and Napoli celebrate with each other like it’s over. Which, Liverpool’s history of three-goal comebacks in Europe notwithstanding, it kind of already is. Napoli have been sensational. Liverpool have been sensationally bad. Klopp races off down the tunnel, presumably about to deliver the mother of all salvos.
45 min: Liverpool look thoroughly embarrassed, as well they might. As good as Napoli have been, the visitors have defended appallingly. “Regarding my earlier email I would like to change my stance,” writes Philip Taylor of 11 min fame. “I would now kill for a spine of Kelly-Poulsen-N’Gog.”
GOAL! Napoli 3-0 Liverpool (Simeone 44)
Zambo Anguissa confuses Firmino in the centre circle with a graceful dragback, then sends his team on the attack. Kvaratskhelia zips down the left, beats Gomez with absurd ease, and whistles a low cross in for Simeone, who knocks home from a couple of yards. This is a rout!
42 min: Liverpool take their corner, and after a little pinball, the ball drops to Van Dijk. Surprised, he can’t get a proper shot away. For all their issues at the back, Liverpool are causing Napoli a few problems up the other end.
41 min: Osimhen is replaced by Simeone.
40 min: Elliott has been lively, Liverpool’s best player this evening, though that’s not saying too much in and of itself. His exchange down the right with Salah leads to another corner. Before it can be taken, though, Osimhen goes down, that muscle problem having presumably reared up again.
39 min: Firmino crosses deep from the left. Elliott shapes to swivel a shot from the edge of the box, but he chances his mind at the last minute, slipping the pass right to Alexander-Arnold, an ersatz version of Pele to Carlos Alberto in the 1970 World Cup final. Alexander-Arnold can’t complete the tribute, and his shot is blocked.
37 min: Your timely reminder that Liverpool have never scored in this stadium.
35 min: Milner curls in from the left. The cross skims off Olivera’s head and drops to Elliott at the far stick. Elliott improvises in the hope of bundling home, but can only knee it wide right. Liverpool have had 61 percent possession, but that’s as close as they’ve come.
34 min: Alexander-Arnold sends a free kick in from the left. Van Dijk does well to climb and send a header towards the top right, but Meret is behind it all the way. Thing is, Liverpool have been half-decent in attack. But they’re all over the shop at the back.
33 min: I mean, this could so easily be 4-0 or 5-0 … and it wouldn’t flatter Napoli one jot.
GOAL! Napoli 2-0 Liverpool (Zambo Anguissa 31)
Kvaratskhelia, undeterred, robs Gomez down the left. He cuts back for Zambo Anguissa, who one-twos with Ziellinski down the channel. Zambo Anguissa is free in the box! He opens his body and powerfully sidefoots past Alisson, who was totally exposed. Napoli are ripping Liverpool’s defence to shreds again and again!
30 min: Salah stabs a shot straight at Meret. So near to an equaliser, but then …
29 min: What a clearance that was, though Kvaratskhelia should never have allowed Van Dijk the opportunity of making it. Nothing comes of the resulting corner, and Liverpool have somehow limited the damage to 1-0. They could so easily be three down already.
27 min: Napoli should be 2-0 up (part II). Osimhen strips Gomez of possession 20 yards from goal. He races into the box from the right, and rolls into the centre for Kvaratskhelia, past the committed Alisson. Kvaratskhelia must score … but sees his weak shot cleared off the line by Van Dijk’s superb goalline lunge!
25 min: Diaz, in plenty of space out on the left, lets the ball rear up onto his arm. Free kick, and a dangerous position gone. Liverpool, perhaps unsurprisingly given the start to their season and the end of their last one, look a little short on confidence. Every task appears a little more difficult than it should.
24 min: Alexander-Arnold, out of form recently but perhaps slowly getting his eye back in, lashes a shot from distance wide of goal. Not too far away, though the whistle goes for a Diaz clip on Lobotka, so it’s all moot. Liverpool are at least asking a couple of questions now.
23 min: … Salah should be working the keeper at the very least. The corner is worked back up the inside-right channel to Alexander-Arnold, who wedges a glorious diagonal pass towards Salah, in acres, just inside the Napoli box on the left. If he takes the ball down, he’s one on one with the keeper, 12 yards out … but the only thing he takes is his eye off the ball. It flies under his boot and out for a goal kick.
22 min: A free kick for Liverpool out on the left. Alexander-Arnold sends a power curler towards the top right. It’s going over, but Meret takes no chances and fingertips away. One Liverpool leads to a second, and from that …
20 min: While Osimhen was preparing to take the penalty, Jurgen Klopp went onto the pitch and gathered his team together, issuing them some beneficial advice in the no-nonsense fashion. Shades of Bill Shankly at Ajax in 1966, when the great men went onto the pitch under cover of fog to deliver a bollocking. For the record, Liverpool lost that match 5-1.
Osimhen misses the penalty!
18 min: Osimhen goes for the bottom left. Alisson reads his intention and parries brilliantly! The ball rebounds towards Di Lorenzo, on the right-hand corner of the six-yard box, but the Napoli captain blazes over the open goal. What a save! What a miss! What a start this has been!
Penalty for Napoli!
17 min: Van Dijk clipped Osimhen on the toe, and over he went. There really wasn’t much in it, and the ball was already squirting away from the striker … but contact is contact, and the referee points to the spot. Osimhen will take it himself.
15 min: Olivera slips a pass down the inside-left channel for Osimhen, who very nearly gets the better of Van Dijk. The Liverpool defender blocks. Osimhen crumbles to a heap. Play goes on as Liverpool clear, but eventually VAR calls the referee over to have a look. This could be more bother for Liverpool.
14 min: Robertson and Milner combine down the left and win themselves another corner. Robertson will take this one himself. Meret punches it clear, but not in a wholly convincing fashion.
13 min: This is yet another game in which Liverpool have started slowly and conceded first. Don’t quote me, but is that now eight times in the last ten games? Whatever it is, it’s not good.
11 min: Elliott floats a lovely diagonal pass towards Salah on the right. Salah chests down and enters the box, but his shot is blocked the second it comes off his boot. A little better from Liverpool, who have otherwise been rocking in a very unsettling fashion. Speaking of unsettling … “That preamble should come with a trigger warning,” writes Philip Taylor. “It also makes me think perhaps Man United last season weren’t so dire in comparison. However, it’s always nice to remember third Fairbrass brother and all-round legend Pepe Reina.”
10 min: Zambo Anguissa looks pained as well, because he’s just been caught by a ludicrous late Milner slide. Liverpool’s stand-in captain goes into the book. A penalty conceded, and now this: he’s had a nightmare start.
9 min: A bit of space for Elliott down the inside-left channel. He dribbles a shot … or is it a cross? … through the Napoli six-yard box. Salah reacts late and can’t meet it at the far post. He looks pained.
7 min: Can Liverpool respond? They look shellshocked. Diaz goes on a dribble down the left and wins the first corner of the evening. Alexander-Arnold takes it, but Osimhen heads clear powerfully. Napoli counter, and Zambo Anguissa has a whack from distance. His shot is blocked, but Liverpool are all over the place. They’re in danger of being blown away by Napoli’s astonishing full-blooded start.
GOAL! Napoli 1-0 Liverpool (Zieliński 5 pen)
Zieliński whips into the bottom left, sending Alisson the wrong way. Only five minutes have been played, and yet that had been coming. What a start from the hosts!
Penalty for Napoli!
4 min: Napoli come again, again. Kvaratskhelia dribbles down the left and cuts back for Politano, who shoots from the edge of the box. His effort is deflected wide right for a corner … or is it a penalty? Zieliński puts the ball on the spot! It is … and it’s the correct decision, Milner having hung out a hand, the ball hitting it clearly.
3 min: … and Osimhen is away again! This time racing after a long ball down the middle. He’s away from Van Dijk, but Alisson has come way out of his box to head clear.
2 min: Wow. What a start that could have been for the hosts. It’s a marker down, if nothing else. Liverpool get away with a big one, big style.
42 sec: Osimhen hits the post! What a start this could have been! Di Lorenzo plays a long pass down the inside-right channel to release the striker, who times his run perfectly to tear away from Gomez! Alisson comes to the edge of his box but loses the race. Osimhen rounds him, but the angle’s tight and he hits the base of the right-hand post!
All jokes and smiles between captains Giovanni Di Lorenzo and James Milner, and the match officials, as everyone clasps hands in a very friendly fashion. Then the hosts get the party started. A huge roar from the home fans as their heroes kick off.
The teams are out! Napoli wear their famous azure blue, redolent of the water of the Gulf of Naples, while Liverpool sport their storied first-choice red. Shock breaking news: there’s one hell of an atmosphere at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, lending a little burst of extra heat to an already warm, clear night on the western coast of southern Italy. We’ll be off in a minute or two, after a quick blast of Zadok the Priest (Version).
A smiling Jurgen Klopp speaks to BT Sport. “It is important that we play football here. It could become quite hectic, emotional and aggressive, and you have to take that, but you have to respond as well. It’s not that an easy place to come, because of the atmosphere people can create. Tonight is a game that we have to defend together, get really compact, we have to be brave. Everyone has to be responsible and cause them problems offensively. The bench looks OK, but so does the team, so let’s give it a go. Napoli are always strong. The teams change but the people don’t change. At the hotel, fireworks last night! They make sure they don’t forget why you are here, and we know now!”
Final score in Amsterdam: Ajax 4-0 Rangers. Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men were thoroughly outclassed. They did at least improve in the second half, though given how ragged they were in the first, that’s not saying a great deal.
More news: we have it. Ajax are now 4-0 up, Steven Bergwijn scoring his second of the evening after latching onto Ryan Jack’s misplaced backpass. But that goal has come at a cost: Bergwijn can’t continue, having pulled up during his celebration with what could be a hamstring injury, but hopefully is just cramp. He’s in a fair bit of pain, either way. Ten minutes to go. Rangers in full damage-limitation mode now, as they stare down the barrel of their second 4-0 reverse on the bounce.
The other game in Group A is already underway. In fact, it’s not far from finished. It is kind of already finished, though, in that Ajax are currently 3-0 up on Rangers with 15 minutes left to play. Edson Alvarez gave the hosts the lead with an uncontested header after 17 minutes. Steven Berghuis and Mohammed Kudus then added two more in two minutes, just after the half hour. Borna Barišić thought he’d pulled one back on 70 minutes, but Ryan Kent was caught ambling offside during the build-up. So it looks very likely that Rangers’ first Champions League group game for 12 years will end in defeat. More news when we have it.
Some pre-match reading …
… and a quick blast of pre-match fume.
Liverpool make three changes to the starting XI named for the Merseyside derby last Saturday. Andrew Robertson, James Milner and Roberto Firmino come in; Kostas Tsimikas and Darwin Nunez drop to the bench, while Fabio Carvalho misses out altogether through injury. Thiago Alcantara returns to the bench after a month out. Napoli striker Victor Osimhen, who had picked up a knock, has been passed fit to start.
Napoli: Meret, Di Lorenzo, Kim, Rrahmani, Olivera, Lobotka, Zambo, Politano, Zielinski, Kvaratskhelia, Osimhen.
Subs: Juan Jesus, Mario Rui, Elmas, Lozano, Simeone, Zerbin, Sirigu, Ostigard, Zanoli, Gaetano, Raspadori, Ndombele.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson, Milner, Fabinho, Elliott, Salah, Firmino, Diaz.
Subs: Thiago, Adrian, Jota, Tsimikas, Nunez, Arthur, Matip, Bajcetic, Phillips, Davies.
Referee: Carlos del Cerro Grande (Spain).
Liverpool first played Napoli in October 2010. Here’s their Europa League line-up that day: Pepe Reina, Paul Konchesky, Jamie Carragher, Martin Kelly, Martin Skrtel, Ryan Babel, Jay Spearing, Christian Poulsen, Jonjo Shelvey, Milan Jovanovic, David N’Gog. Subs: Brad Jones, Fabio Aurelio, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Danny Wilson, Joe Cole, Maxi Rodriguez, Nathan Eccleston. Manager: Roy Hodgson.
Quite a lot has changed since then … except one thing. That game ended 0-0, and to this day Liverpool still haven’t scored at the San Paolo, despite visiting on another two subsequent occasions, both under the yoke of Jurgen Klopp. Lorenzo Insigne scored a last-minute winner in the groups in 2018, and at the same stage a year later, Dries Mertens and Fernando Llorente secured a late 2-0 smash and grab for the Italians. Liverpool don’t much like it in Naples … and the home heroes, unbeaten and currently second in Serie A, will provide tough opposition as they always do. Kick off at what is now known as the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona is 8pm BST. It’s on!