Recalling drab last trip to Napoli shows how far Liverpool have come in 8 years

1 October 2018

Liverpool head to Italy to face Napoli on Wednesday evening, but how did the Reds fare on their last visit to Stadio San Paolo, back in October 2010?


Jurgen Klopp‘s side continued their excellent start to the season on Saturday, drawing 1-1 at Chelsea in one of those rare games where one point feels like three.

Champions Man City await at Anfield this weekend, but before that, Liverpool face a daunting trip to one of the most atmospheric away grounds in Europe.

Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo will be bouncing when the two sides meet in their Champions League Group C clash, with the Reds still buoyant after seeing off Paris Saint-Germain.

They have only visited Napoli once in their history, dating back to the 2010/11 season when things were very different at Liverpool.

 

Forgettable Affair in Naples

NAPELS, ITALY - Thursday, October 21, 2010: Liverpool's manager Roy Hodgson and Jamie Carragher walk off the pitch at half-time during the UEFA Europa League Group K match against SSC Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo. (Pic by: David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Rafa Benitez’s era at Anfield ended in June, with ownership issues and a wane in the Spaniard’s decision-making spelling the end for one of Liverpool’s most popular managers of all time.

Replacing him was Roy Hodgson—an individual who never felt like a Reds appointment from day one, but who was given the benefit of the doubt nonetheless.

By the time the Europa League group stage clash with Napoli rolled around in October, Hodgson already had Liverpool in a dire state of affairs in the Premier League.

They won just one of their opening eight fixtures, and the Sunday before they travelled to Naples, Everton had prevailed in the Merseyside derby, winning 2-0 at Goodison Park.

It left them 19th in the table and there was actual talk of a potential relegation fight.

NAPELS, ITALY - Thursday, October 21, 2010: Liverpool's captain Jamie Carragher leads his side out to face SSC Napoli during the UEFA Europa League Group K match at the Stadio San Paolo. (Pic by: David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Hopes weren’t exactly high for obvious reasons as Liverpool prepared for their third Europa League group game, despite having beaten Steaua Bucharest 4-1 and drawn 0-0 with Utrecht.

Hodgson’s starting lineup from the night shows just how remarkable the gulf in quality is between Klopp’s current squad and the class of 2010/11.

Martin Kelly, Martin Skrtel and Paul Konchesky were at the back, while the midfield was made up of Jay Spearing, Christian Poulsen and Jonjo Shelvey.

Milan Jovanovic and Ryan Babel were on the flanks and David N’Gog led the line, in what has to be described as a woeful Reds team.

Even Pepe Reina and Jamie Carragher, both of whom started, could do little to salvage their side.

It may have been a second-string outfit, with Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres both not featuring, but there were too many players simply nowhere near good enough at that time.

It didn’t prove to be a Liverpool match that will live long in the memory, with little of note unfolding over a dour 90 minutes.

NAPELS, ITALY - Thursday, October 21, 2010: Liverpool's David Ngog sees his shot blocked by SSC Napoli's Salvatore Aronica during the UEFA Europa League Group K match at the Stadio San Paolo. (Pic by: David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Marek Hamsik saw an effort cleared off the line by Konchesky, in a rare moment of joy for the much-maligned left-back.

Babel and N’Gog both had opportunities to open the scoring but spurned their chances and that was about as good as it got.

The eventual goalless draw was a reasonable result, though, and it kept Liverpool in a good position to reach the knockout rounds.

It did mean seven matches without a win, however.

 

What Happened Next?

NAPELS, ITALY - Thursday, October 21, 2010: Liverpool's manager Roy Hodgson before the UEFA Europa League Group K match against SSC Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo. (Pic by: David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Although Hodgson’s reign remained dismal, Liverpool did actually manage four victories on the spin after the stalemate in Naples.

Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and Chelsea were all seen off in the league, while a superb Gerrard hat-trick saw the Reds get the better of Napoli at Anfield.

It allayed some of the fears over being dragged into a relegation scrap, but it was still clear that a managerial change was desperately called for.

A shocking 1-0 defeat at home to Wolves in December was Hodgson’s nadir in the Anfield hot-seat and he finally received his marching orders after Blackburn won 3-1 at Ewood Park in early January.

One of the worst periods in the history of Liverpool Football Club had come to an end, and a certain Kenny Dalglish was brought in to save the day.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 9, 2011: Liverpool's manager Kenny Dalglish MBE before the FA Cup 3rd Round match against Manchester United at Old Trafford. (Photo by: David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

He did just that, eventually steering the Reds to a sixth-placed finish—respectable, given Hodgson had left them in 12th—and getting them to the Europa League last 16.

It was a memorable half-season for all the wrong reasons before Dalglish arrived, and the draw at Napoli was the kind of insipid encounter that summed it up.


Napoli 0-0 Liverpool

Europa League Group Stage, Stadio San Paolo
October 21, 2010

Napoli: De Sanctis; Cannavaro, Aronica, Campagnaro; Maggio (Zuniga 76′), Gargano (Yebda 83′), Pazienza, Dossena; Hamsik (Sosa 85′), Lavezzi, Cavani

Subs not used: Iezzo, Cribari, Grava, Dumitru

Liverpool: Reina; Kelly, Skrtel, Carragher (Kyrgiakos 46′), Konchesky (Aurelio 65′); Poulsen, Spearing; Jovanovic, Shelvey, Babel (Cole 77′); N’Gog

Subs not used: Jones, Wilson, Rodriguez, Eccleston

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