Napoli extended their unbeaten run in style at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona as Luciano Spalletti’s side struck three times in the first half to hand Liverpool an embarrassing 4-1 defeat in their Champions League opener in Group A.
Within three minutes, the Partenopei were awarded a penalty by referee Carlos del Cerro Grande after James Milner handled Matteo Politano’s shot inside the area with an outstretched arm. Piotr Zielinski stepped up to bury the resulting spot-kick beyond Alisson and into the bottom-left corner to put his side 1-0 up.
Then, just 12 minutes later to Liverpool’s horror, Napoli were awarded another penalty. Virgil Van Dijk was adjudged to have fouled Victor Osimhen in the area after a VAR check on the pitchside monitor. Osimhen opted to also step up to take the penalty that he won for his team, but the Nigerian’s effort was saved well by Alisson to his right. Politano could only place the resulting rebound over the bar.
Napoli made amends and doubled their lead right on the half-hour mark, as Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa finished well from inside the box following a neat give-and-go with Zielinski.
Moments after coming on as an enforced substitute, Giovanni Simeone – the son of Diego – got in on the act right on the stroke of half-time to put his side three goals to the good. The Argentine tapped in Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s cut-back into the net from inside the area, after a brilliant initial run from the Georgian down the left flank saw him beat two Liverpool players.
Liverpool were then dealt yet another blow just two minutes after the restart, as Zielinski had his brace. The Polish international’s initial shot from inside the 18-yard box was saved by Alisson, but he easily placed the rebound into the net from close range.
Jurgen Klopp’s side hit back right away, as Luis Diaz curled a fantastic strike into the bottom-right corner from 18-yards out just two minutes later, but it only proved to be a consolation as Liverpool had to settle for a humbling defeat in Naples.
TALKING POINT – LIVERPOOL TAKEN TO THE SWORD
Liverpool’s lacklustre showing this evening against Napoli has surely highlighted to Jurgen Klopp and his backroom staff that there are problems that may need to be addressed.
Defensively, Liverpool were all over the place. Joe Gomez, who was preferred once again at centre-half to Joel Matip, had a torrid game at the back. Twice he was caught in possession in his own half, and it led to Napoli chances on both occasions. Virgil van Dijk also continued his indifferent spell of form, but he comes out of the game with more credit, as he made a clearance off the line in the first half to prevent a certain goal.
Liverpool’s midfield also should be giving Klopp some cause for concern. With the absence of Fabio Carvalho tonight due to injury, James Milner was thrown in the middle once again only to produce another below-par showing. Once Thiago is fully-fit and new signing Arthur Melo is up to speed, there should be an improvement in the centre of the park. But right now, Liverpool’s manager will surely be scratching his head after watching his side capitulate tonight.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – ANDRE-FRANK ZAMBO ANGUISSA
This was a hard one to choose as a fair few Napoli players were deserving of special recognition for their performances, but the Cameroon international controlled the midfield and also got on the scoresheet, showcasing his box-to-box profile in abundance.
In total, Anguissa won all seven of his attempted tackles, made two successful dribbles, and also made two key passes. A fantastic performance by the 26-year-old midfielder.
SSC Napoli: Meret 8, Di Lorenzo 7, Rrahmani 6, Min-Jae 7, Olivera 6, Anguissa 9, Lobotka 6, Politano 6, Zielinski 9, Kvaratskhelia 8, Osimhen 7. Subs: Rui 6, Lozano 6, Elmas 6, Zerbin 6, Simeone 7.
Liverpool: Alisson 7, Robertson 6, Van Dijk 6, Gomez 5, Alexander-Arnold 6, Milner 5, Fabinho 6, Elliott 6, Diaz 7, Firmino 6, Salah 5. Subs: Nunez 6, Thiago 7, Jota 6, Matip 6, Arthur 6.
5’ – GOAL! (Piotr Zielinski penalty) – Kvaratskhelia does well down the left to sent a cut-back into Politano inside the box, but his shot hits Milner! VAR checks it and the referee awards a penalty for handball! It came off Milner’s outstretched arm! Zielinski calmly buries his spot-kick into the bottom-left corner and Liverpool are rattled here!
15’ – ANOTHER PENALTY FOR NAPOLI! – This time it is for a van Dijk challenge on Osimhen! The Nigerian breaks clear and only has the last defender to beat, and the two come together, which sees him fall awkwardly. The referee has been told to view the incident on the monitor. He’s given it!
17’ – PENALTY SAVED! – Osimhen has his penalty saved! He opts to take the penalty despite Zielinski taking the first! Alisson dives the right way to tip it, and the rebound from Politano goes over the bar! That could be a big moment in the game!
30’ – OFF THE LINE! – Napoli go very close again! Osimhen robs the ball off Gomez and tees up Kvaratskhelia for the tap-in inside the box into an empty net, but Van Dijk runs back just in time to make a clearance off the line!
31’ – GOAL! (Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa) – Anguissa strikes for the home side to put Liverpool in all sorts of trouble here! Gomez is caught in possession once again by Kvaratskhelia! He does well to play it back for Anguissa, who plays a neat one-two with Zielinski, before finishing well into the net inside the box!
44’ – GOAL! (Giovanni Simeone) – Simeone, who has only been on the pitch a matter of minutes, gets in on the act to get his first Napoli goal! Kvaratskhelia does absolutely fantastic down the left hand side to beat two players, before cutting it back into the centre for Simone, who has an easy tap-in goal with his first touch!
47’ – GOAL! (Piotr Zielinski) – Zielinski receives the ball in the area, and has a strike straight at Alisson saved, but the rebound is clipped over the goalkeeper and Napoli strike again early in the second half!
49’ – GOAL! (Luis Diaz) – Liverpool hit back straight away! The visitors break down the other end, and Diaz picks up the ball just inside the area from Robertson, before the Colombian bends in a beautiful effort into the bottom corner past Meret! That is just what Liverpool needed.