A lack of pressure and intent saw Liverpool succumb to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Real Madrid, leaving them a mountain to climb in a bid to qualify for the Champions League semi-final.
It was clear prior to kick-off that high intensity and a high press were needed to plot Real Madrid’s downfall, but Liverpool were a shell of themselves and paid the price.
Errors in and out of possession were punished and a Marco Asensio strike and Vinicius Jr brace would only be offset by Mohamed Salah‘s 27th goal of the season.
The performance left a lot to be desired and saw hopes of a semi-final berth take a hefty hit ahead of the second leg at Anfield, where a 2-0 victory would suffice.
There is a lot to rectify before then for Jurgen Klopp and Co. as the Reds were taught a lesson, and a timely response is needed.
Here, This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) is joined by John O’Sullivan (@NotoriousJOS) and Stephen Killen (@SteKillenLFC) to discuss the highs and the lows from Liverpool’s defeat and the Naby Keita gamble.
JOHN: Largely, I thought Ozan Kabak was solid. Not that he was perfect, but he mostly coped well with what was thrown his way.
Salah’s goal was a great example of his killer nature in the box. He didn’t die wondering and was on his toes waiting for the rebound.
Unfortunately, positives were few and far between.
STEPHEN: In a game of little positives, the only glaringly obvious positive from our perspective is that we are still in this tie.
At half-time, being 2-0 down you’d fear it could have or would be getting worse. However, we fought back and we got the important away goal. For the complexion of the goal looking ahead to the second leg, it may not mean much now but may benefit us, who knows what can happen in 90 minutes at Anfield…
JOANNA: It says a lot when I can’t really add more than what John and Stephen have both said there, as positives were evidently not in abundance.
I would say Kabak and Salah are the only two who could walk away with credit to their name, with the away goal a much-needed lifeline to keep any faint hopes alive.
They clearly got a rocket at half-time but the pressure after the break had to be constant, not sporadic.
JOHN: The press. Liverpool, so noted for their intensity, sat off and let Toni Kroos dictate the game. The first goal came directly from that route.
And Sadio Mane; I thought his decision making and end product were both poor and he didn’t link well with the other forwards.
STEPHEN: I won’t go for the glaringly obvious in the team selection, which still shouldn’t be ignored, but what I will say fingers need to be pointed at those on the pitch.
It took 50 minutes to find any rhythm in the game, against a team of Real Madrid’s quality you will be punished and for a team pursuing their seventh Champions League triumph, it’s unacceptable.
It’s a shame that Vinicius scored the third, it was a sucker punch just as we were seemingly in the ascendancy.
But the bad has to be the overall performance, too many passengers with very little fight shown and if we want to make something of this season, in games of that magnitude, players need to take the bull by the horns, stand up and be counted as it’s happened too many times this season.
JOANNA: It hurts that bit more because we left a lot out there, that wasn’t Liverpool playing anywhere neat to their best and it was reflected on the scoreboard and by the performance.
Pressure was key and with no intensity we just let Real Madrid dictate the game and take advantage of our weaknesses. This was an area where the absence of Jordan Henderson was felt as it seemed no one was prepared to take that authority role.
And I agree that Klopp’s team selection did not pay off, and we’re also starting to see fatigue take centre-stage once more, you need only to look at the output of Mane, Robbo and Gini.
The referee is not an excuse for anything, but boy did he fall for Real’s theatrics and yet Mane being illegally pushed out of the contest isn’t worthy of a free-kick? Maybe it’s not just the Premier League…
And the Keita gamble didn’t pay off, how do you assess his Liverpool future?
JOHN: I would never use the evidence of one game to justify selling a player. Gini Wijnaldum, for example, was just as poor in the first half and no one is clamouring for his departure.
But it might be time to cut ties with Keita. He’s supremely gifted, but his injury record makes me doubt he’ll ever play often enough to really establish himself.
As always, money talks. I think would be minded to sell if a suitable offer arrived and it’d be hard to blame them.
STEPHEN: I can see why he took the plunge, to a degree in which I agree maybe change was needed, it didn’t pay off. It emphasises the gulf between training well and being match fit — especially after a catalogue of niggling injury problems.
I’m not sure if his time is up but for a player in dire need of Premier League minutes and with the complexion of this season, I can’t see an avenue in which a returning player, who needs game time under his belt, will fit into a team fighting to salvage any credibility from a campaign.
JOANNA: It’s a frustrating one because he is a player with an abundance of talent, we just haven’t been able to call upon it on a consistent basis.
As the lads have said, he wasn’t the only poor performer in that first-half and Klopp could have utilised all five subs in that moment, but it was another missed opportunity for him. He appeared frustrated from the off and on the periphery of the game.
I agree with John that if a suitable offer comes in it should be considered.