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The Mirror:Liverpool thumped by Napoli in nightmare Champions League defeat – 5 talking points

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Liverpool’s Champions League campaign got off to the worst possible start as they were thumped 4-1 by Napoli on Wednesday evening.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have designs on claiming a seventh European crown, but they have it all to do in Group A after succumbing to a nightmare defeat at the hands of the Serie A outfit.

Piotr Zielinski coolly converted a fifth-minute penalty before Victor Osimhen spurned the chance to double that early lead just minutes later. Franck Zambo Anguissa did double Napoli’s advantage on the half-hour mark to cap a slick passing move before Giovanni Simeone made it three on the stroke of the interval. Zielinski grabbed his second goal of the night just 90 seconds after the restart to effectively seal the points for the hosts.

Luis Diaz did fire back with a fine strike, but it was too little too late for Klopp’s side, who have made an underwhelming start to the new season. Here are five talking points from a rough night for Liverpool…

Another slow start

Conceding first has become a recurring theme for Liverpool in the early weeks of the 2022/23 campaign, and the Reds were left with it all to do once again on Wednesday night.

Liverpool stumbled out of the blocks in Naples and were punished by Zielinski’s early penalty. But it could – and should – have been worse than that. Osimhen hit the post inside the opening 60 seconds and he should have doubled Napoli’s lead with his own spot-kick after VAR intervened to penalise Virgil van Dijk for a clumsy coming together in the box.

Zielinski’s strike means that Liverpool have now scored the opening goal just once in their last 14 matches; a statistic that needs to be drastically improved if the Reds are to advance into the latter stages of the competition once again.

Disastrous defending

Join the debate! What did you make of Liverpool’s performance against Napoli? Let us know here.

Joe Gomez was hauled off at the break by Jurgen Klopp

Joe Gomez was hauled off at the break by Jurgen Klopp 

Image:

Francesco Pecoraro)

Liverpool have scored goals for fun over the past few years, but they have been just as efficient at keeping goals out. Van Dijk has been an absolute colossus for the Reds since he arrived at Anfield for big money, but the Dutchman has not started the season well – and he and Joe Gomez both struggled to cope with Napoli’s rapid breaks.

The high-line that Liverpool deploy is a hallmark of how Klopp’s team play and has played a key role in their recent success, but Napoli found joy time and time again with simple balls over the top of Liverpool’s press.

Gomez looked miles off the pace and was mercifuly hauled off at the break following a couple of calamitous moments but Van Dijk struggled with Napoli’s direct attacking approach too and failed to get to grips with Osimhen, who ran riot until his night was ended prematurely by injury.

Milner’s Napoli nightmare

James Milner gave away a penalty in the opening minutes of the match

James Milner gave away a penalty in the opening minutes of the match 

Image:

Giuseppe Maffia)

James Milner was tasked with leading Liverpool’s midfield in Naples in the wake of a host of selection issues. But unfortunately, the versatile veteran, who has been the hallmark of consistency during his career, was massively off the pace.

The 36-year-old made the worst possible start by giving away a penalty after just five minutes, and he was in the book just minutes later after making an ill-timed challenge. He could have even seen red shortly after and was fortunate to make it to the hour mark before he was finally hauled off.

Liverpool have a wretched record away at Napoli and badly needed their experienced players to step up after an underwhelming start to the season – but Milner did the complete opposite.

Salah struggles continue

Mohamed Salah was anonymous again for Liverpool

Mohamed Salah was anonymous again for Liverpool 

Image:

Andrew Powell)

Mohamed Salah has made an uncharacteristically sluggish start to the season – and he was practically anonymous again on Wednesday night.

The Egyptian magician has blanked in four of Liverpool’s six matches this term and, in truth, he never looked like improving on that modest record against Napoli.

Salah has hit remarkable heights in recent years, but he is desperately out of form right now. The thought of Salah being taken off with Liverpool chasing a game would have been unthinkable a year ago; the fact that his withdrawal on the hour mark wasn’t a surprise says everything you need to know about his current slump.

Diaz dazzles

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Although Salah endured another off-night, Diaz managed to dazzle again for Liverpool.

The Colombian forward has made a stunning impact at Anfield since his arrival back in January and gave the Reds a glimmer of hope with a well-placed strike early in the second half.

With Salah desperately out of sorts, Diaz is quietly establishing himself as Liverpool’s new main man, and he was one of the only players to emerge from Wednesday night with any credit.

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