Liverpool endured a tough night at Anfield, but a 1-0 win over Napoli was enough to secure their place in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Liverpool 1-0 Napoli
Champions League Group Stage (6), Anfield
December 11, 2018
Salah 34′ (assist – Milner)
After reaching the final in sensational fashion last season, the Reds left it down to the last round of the group stage to determine whether they progressed to the knockout stages this time out.
Having already lost to each of their Group C opponents, PSG, Red Star and Napoli, Jurgen Klopp‘s side faced a tough task as they took on the latter in a must-win game at Anfield.
Buoyed by excellent results of late in the Premier League, however, including a 4-0 win at Bournemouth on Saturday, Liverpool will have headed into this home tie confident of securing the three points they needed.
Klopp made three changes to the side victorious at Dean Court, with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane coming in for Fabinho, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri to form a more conservative Reds side.
The objective was clear, and with the backing of Anfield, Liverpool made it to the last 16.
- Klopp makes three changes from side that thrashed Bournemouth
- Van Dijk booked, misses Liverpool’s next game in European competition
- Salah nets winner with stunning play down the right of Napoli’s box
- Reds book their place in the last 16 of the Champions League
Both sides traded chances in a breathless opening, with Mohamed Salah fluffing Andy Robertson‘s excellent cross when one-on-one, before Marek Hamisk clipped an effort just over Alisson‘s bar.
Referee Damir Skomina sparked the ire of the Anfield crowd when he booked Virgil van Dijk for a last-man challenge on Dries Mertens, meaning the Dutchman would be suspended for the next European game.
Sadio Mane had the ball in the back of the net on 22 minutes after great work from the brilliant Gini Wijnaldum, but he was flagged for a clear offside.
Liverpool eventually got their opener through some world-class play from Salah, who turned onto Milner’s threaded pass into the box and squeezed his shot beyond an out-of-depth David Ospina from a tight angle to make it 1-0.
The hosts certainly had better opportunities in the final third, and the first half ended with the Reds holding their one-goal lead.
Klopp’s side kept up the pressure after the break, with Salah particularly inspired as he swept inside to the left and delivered a fine cross over to Wijnaldum, whose ambitious effort sailed well wide.
Salah dragged a great effort just off target, Roberto Firmino headed straight at Ospina and Van Dijk fired a long-range strike close to goal as the chances kept coming for Liverpool.
Carlo Ancelotti responded by sending on former Reds target Piotr Zielinski and striker Arkadiusz Milik, who scored twice in Napoli’s 4-0 thrashing of Frosinone on Saturday, providing a change of pace in the final third.
Some great work from Ospina kept out both Salah and Mane with brilliant openings, as the tension grew inside Anfield and Klopp opted to replace Milner and Firmino with Fabinho and Keita.
Mane missed when it was easier to score from Salah’s cutback, but the crowd kept up the positive atmosphere as the clock ticked and the likelihood of Liverpool progressing increased.
Their dreams almost died in stoppage time as the ball dropped to Milik in the six-yard area, but there was Alisson to make another incredible save to ensure a place in the last 16.
TIA Man of the Match: Mohamed Salah
Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN)
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold (Lovren 90′), Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Milner (Fabinho 85′); Salah, Mane, Firmino (Keita 79′)
Subs not used: Mignolet, Shaqiri, Sturridge, Origi
Napoli: Ospina; Maksimovic, Albiol, Koulibaly; Fabian (Zielinski 62′), Allan, Hamisk, Mario Rui (Ghoulam 70′); Callejon, Insigne, Mertens (Milik 67′)
Subs not used: Karnezis, Hysaj, Diawara, Ounas
Next Match: Man United (H) – Premier League – Sunday, December 16, 4pm (GMT)