The media lauded Mohamed Salah and Alisson’s heroics and felt the best traits of the old and new Liverpool combined perfectly in the 1-0 win over Napoli.
It was unbearably nervy at times, but the Reds fought to the precious 1-0 win needed to book a place in the Champions League knockout stage at the Serie A side’s expense.
A moment of magic from Mohamed Salah was the difference but the priceless three points also came thanks to Alisson, who saved the game with an unbelievable point-blank stop in injury time.
It was a monstrous effort from Klopp’s side and though the group stage has been far from plain sailing, Liverpool deserve full credit for getting through such a difficult group and into the last-16.
Here’s how the media assessed another big European night at Anfield.
Reporters praised Liverpool for delivering a big performance under big pressure
For JOE.co.uk, Melissa Reddy praised the Reds for delivering a performance of “intelligence, patience and control” on such a big night:
As has been the case during their domestic campaign, where they sit pretty as the Premier League‘s leaders, the Reds displayed intelligence, patience and control to thwart Carlo Ancelotti’s side and progress in the competition.
ESPN’s Glenn Price was impressed by how Klopp’s side dealt with the pressure of the occasion, and thinks the Reds have improved in this regard this season:
Liverpool keep on handling the pressure and delivering when required to.
The Liverpool Echo’s James Pearce praised every player for rising to the occasion and was impressed by the Reds’ maturity on the night:
Klopp had challenged his players to right the wrongs after enduring three successive away European defeats and to a man they delivered.
Liverpool played with maturity and control from start to finish.
Journalists felt the performance boasted a nice balance of the best traits of Klopp’s old and new Liverpool
The Mail’s Ian Ladyman was one of the reporters who assessed how the Reds’ display brought back memories of the blitzing performances produced against Man City and Roma:
There was a 20 minute spell at the start of the second half that saw Klopp’s team press and hurry Napoli with such ferocity that memories of last season’s destruction of Manchester City and Roma at Anfield came flooding back.
Writing for Goal.com, Neil Jones thought the performance boasted traits of both the old and new Liverpool:
There were signs of the old Liverpool in the way the home side pressed and harried after the break, but signs of the new Reds in the manner in which they held out.
Dominic King, also of the Mail, believes Liverpool are simply a different team to last season, and attributed that to Virgil van Dijk making the Reds a much better defensive unit:
A fee of that nature can never be called a bargain but there is no doubt whatsoever that investment Liverpool made in Van Dijk has been handsomely rewarded.
They are a different team from the one that blitzed into the Champions League knockout stages 12 months ago and he is a prime reason.
Mohamed Salah and Alisson were lauded for their respective match-winning heroics
Starting with the Egyptian, the Mirror’s Steve Bates noted how Salah has burst into life at the perfect time and labelled the winning strike “a priceless goal for Liverpool’s season”:
Until this month Salah hadn’t reached the peaks of last season – but the Egyptian star has burst into life the last few days first with a hat-trick at Bournemouth and then his opener against Napoli.
His first half finish was typical Salah – and a priceless goal for Liverpool’s season.
The Independent’s Tom Kershaw feels such is Salah’s game-winning ability, that Klopp rightly and obviously built his entire game-plan around the Egyptian King:
Klopp’s blueprint for the match was so blatant he could have informed Carlo Ancelotti prior to the start of the fixture. Never was there a time that a Liverpool midfielder found space without raising their head demonically in one direction, scouring for the Egyptian.
The play became so lopsided that Sadio Mane was essentially dragged into the role of striker, Firmino watching and waiting for Salah’s cut-back.
On Alisson, Pearce lauded the Brazilian’s save and recent contributions before assessing that Liverpool haven’t had a ‘keeper of this quality since Bruce Grobbelaar:
Liverpool sit top of the Premier League thanks to his huge contributions in the recent wins over Everton and Burnley. Now he has helped write another memorable chapter in the Reds’ rich European history.
Talk about taking the fast-track to Kop icon status. Liverpool haven’t had a keeper of this calibre since Bruce Grobbelaar was in his prime.
The Telegraph’s Jason Burt explained just how much of an upgrade Alisson has proven, noting the difference between the Brazilian’s aura and that of the man he replaced:
The Brazilian is a world-class goalkeeper and that one save alone underlined his importance and will draw harsh comparisons with the man he replaced, Loris Karius. The German simply does not have the same aura.
Standard Sport’s David Lynch thinks Alisson is building a serious case to now be widely recognised as the best goalkeeper in the world:
It was a contribution just as vital as Mohamed Salah’s goal, one that strengthened Alisson’s growing claim to be the best in his position in the world.
Meanwhile, Reddy felt Liverpool’s new spine shone as a collective, lauding the work of van Dijk and Alisson before labelling the pair as “bargain additions”:
Liverpool demonstrated – as they have done in the league – their strength in building on steel and trusting their spine, to which Virgil van Dijk and Alisson were – and this is no hyperbole – bargain additions despite their price tags.
Certain reporters discussed Liverpool’s ambitions for the knockout stage
Burt believes the Reds will be the side the rest of the qualifying teams want to avoid:
It adds further warmth to the feel-good factor and sense that this is a formidable, emerging team that no one will want to face. Especially Salah if he plays like this.
The BBC’s Phil McNulty thinks Liverpool will pose a big threat again in the knockout stages, but noted that away form needs to improve:
They have, however, navigated their way out of a tough group with three home wins and are now in the territory in which they flourish, namely the two-legged format with the power Anfield can provide.
Liverpool must improve on that poor away form – but their optimism will be rising after reaching the last 16.
Our man Karl Matchett feels Liverpool can arrive for the knockout stage with nothing to fear:
As has proven to be the case in the not-too-distant past, once into that knock-out phase anything can happen; few teams will relish coming to Anfield and not many managers can outwit Klopp over two legs.
There remain big challenges ahead, but Liverpool can face them without fear.
Several Reds were praised for impressive individual performances
First of all, our man Joel Rabinowitz reserved praise for Klopp for getting what was a much-criticised team selection right:
However, there’s a reason why Klopp is considered a world-class manager and his selection ultimately paid dividends, allowing Liverpool to control the game in a professional manner, striking the right balance between defensive security and posing a constant attacking threat.
It also means Klopp has Fabinho, Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri all fresh for Sunday’s visit of Man United, and ultimately he was vindicated in picking the right XI to pass an extremely tough challenge to keep Liverpool’s Champions League hopes well and truly alive.
Building on that point, Matchett saw a welcome improvement from the much-maligned midfield three, explaining how more attacking ambition was key:
It was a triumvirate which didn’t inspire a huge amount of pre-game positivity, based on their performances this season, but the first half showed a key difference.
It was first visible from Wijnaldum, then Milner: forward runs, all the way into the penalty area and offering a real option in the final third.
Lynch thought Roberto Firmino was “back to his best”, and put this down to the Brazilian being deployed in his best position as No.9:
Having endured a mixed run of form of late, Roberto Firmino looked firmly back to his best as Liverpool took on Napoli. And that might have something do with his return to a ‘false nine’ role after spending plenty of time in recent games playing a No.10 in a 4-2-3-1.
He should not be the one to pay for a failure to add another No.10 over the summer – if nothing else, Liverpool can’t afford to lose him up front.
Rabinowitz thought Gini Wijnaldum was “at his very best” and assessed the Dutchman as Liverpool’s key midfielder on the night:
The top performer in an excellent midfield unit on the night, this was Wijnaldum at his very best.
The Dutchman was industrious and courageous throughout, helping win the ball back and retain possession to keep Liverpool in control of the contest.
Finally, Matchett waxed lyrical on Joel Matip’s “masterful” performance and praised the centre-back for taking his chance to prove his worth recently:
For the third match in succession, Joel Matip put in a masterful performance for the Reds.
To his credit, Matip still had to take the chance afforded to him—just as Gomez did in the summer—and he has been excellent in doing so.