Another Loss Away in Europe
Liverpool were beaten 2-1 by PSG in Paris to put the Reds’ Champions League progression under serious threat. Liverpool started slowly and PSG took advantage by emulating the Reds of last year in blowing us off the park early. Similarly, the home fans channelled an Anfield-like spirit and roared their team to victory.
Their first goal was slightly fortunate but certainly deserved, as Juan Bernat arrived first to a failed reactionary clearance by van Dijk, and managed to deflect a shot beyond a helpless Alisson. Neymar doubled their lead after our ‘keeper brilliantly denied Edison Cavani, but the Brazilian villain was never going to miss from only a few yards out.
Liverpool slowly kicked on after this but failed to create any clear-cut chances. James Milner slotted home a penalty just before half-time, but it wasn’t enough. Even though the Reds had far more possession in the second half, they were unable to do anything meaningful with it.Embed from Getty Images
Alisson – (Man of the Match) 9
The fact that the ‘keeper was Man of the Match in a loss tells the story. Regardless, Alisson was unbelievable and couldn’t do anything about either of PSG’s goals. He was the only reason that the score was kept respectable, as the Reds could’ve easily conceded another three or four if it weren’t for his interventions.
Some superb efforts to deny the likes of Angel Di Maria, Cavani, and Thiago Silva stand out as the best of the bunch. It’s obviously better if our ‘keeper doesn’t have to do so much work, but it’s still good to be sure that even when we’re being overrun, Alisson can keep our heads above water.
Joe Gomez – 4.5
Playing Gomez at right-back was an okay idea in theory. But the game isn’t played in theory, and the experiment didn’t work at all. The logic was to use Gomez as extra protection against Neymar, but that backfired badly as PSG ran through the right side of our defence all night.
A swift return to centre-back is needed for young Joe, and in hindsight, it was foolish to move him out of the role that he’d been playing so well in.
Dejan Lovren – 4
This was Lovren’s first Champions League appearance of the season, and it may well be his last. The Croatian played no worse than any of the other defenders, but it’s clear that VVD’s partner should be Gomez.
He couldn’t handle the speed and quick thinking of PSG’s attacking trio and was regularly caught out of position, including in the buildup to the second goal when he was woefully left in the dust.
Virgil van Dijk – 4
We’ve come to expect so much more from the Dutchman, and while the result doesn’t rest on his shoulders, we needed him to step up again and lead the defence to an assured performance, but he didn’t.
Like Lovren, he failed to keep up with PSG’s slick attack, and it was his failed, albeit difficult, clearance that led to the opening goal. Although, Gomez might’ve reacted quicker to either get ahead of Bernat, or close down the eventual shot.
Andy Robertson – 6.5
Robbo was the only defender who can take any pride out of that game, and even then, his reactions towards the end of the match showed that he’s just as furious about the result as many of the fans.
Kylian Mbappe was kept quiet for most of the game, and that was largely due to Robbo’s interceptions and covering runs. He was also able to threaten PSG’s flank with some nice overlapping runs, but unfortunately, his end product wasn’t up to scratch.Embed from Getty Images
Jordan Henderson – 3
Hendo needed to redeem himself in the eyes of many fans after needlessly getting himself sent off against Watford, but he’s only fanned the flames with this performance.
Unsurprisingly, his biggest sin was repeatedly passing backwards when the opportunity to break was on. We desperately needed some sort of drive or spark from midfield, or at the very least, for the midfielders not to slow the game down. Hendo was more of a hindrance than a help in that regard.
Gini Wijnaldum – 3
In fairness to Hendo, the rest of the midfield wasn’t much better. It’s so frustrating to see Gini absolutely dominate some games, and then go missing for 30-minute spells in others. The first time I saw him anywhere near the play, he was getting booked.
We needed our midfield to give the rest of the team a hand, but they neither provided the attackers with any meaningful ammunition nor gave the defence the support they so desperately needed.
James Milner – 5
Milner gets a better rating simply because he scored. To be fair, he was also the best of the worst when it came to getting attacking moves started, but that’s really not saying much at all.
He was just as guilty as anyone of allowing PSG’s players acres of space in the midfield and did little to turn the tables even once momentum had begun to shift. His penalty was our only shot on target. A damning statistic.Embed from Getty Images
Mo Salah – 4
Sometimes it feels like ‘one step forward, two steps back’ with Salah. This game showed all of the things that have worried Liverpool fans about Mo’s performances this season.
His decision making in the final third was frankly, abysmal. He’d shoot when the pass was on, and pass when the shot was on. To make matters worse, regardless of his decision, he’d execute the final ball terribly. It’s also a mystery as to why he’s on corner duty when he’s decent in the air, but more importantly, horribly inconsistent with his crosses.
Sadio Mane – 7
Mane didn’t manage to score or rescue the result, but he looked by far the most likely and won the penalty that could’ve changed the game for us.
He created chances all on his own when his fellow attackers weren’t showing any intelligent movement, and created space for himself with his pace and trickery when the midfield failed to give him a decent pass. Like Alisson and Robbo, he was let down by those around him.
Bobby Firmino – 3
Firmino did next to nothing all game, apart from one decent header that went high and wide. Being restored to a more familiar role could’ve meant a return to his form of last season, but we just got more of the same, minus the effective pressing and passing.
Bobby would’ve gotten a 4 as Mo did, but I’ve taken an extra point off for that disgusting thing on his upper lip. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the worst thing I saw during the game, but God did it come close.Embed from Getty Images
Naby Keita – (on for Wijnaldum 66′) 5
Naby tried hard and did give our midfield some much needed forward drive, but ultimately he couldn’t provide anything significant on the night.
Daniel Sturridge – (on for Firmino 71′) 4
His only contribution of note was to hold back a breaking PSG player late on. He got booked, but he needed to take one for the team to keep the deficit to only one goal.
Xherdan Shaqiri – (on for Milner 77′) 4
His only opportunities to make an impact came from set-pieces, and he didn’t take any of them particularly well. Although, his cross to Lovren was well-weighted.
Simon Mignolet, Joel Matip, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Fabinho.
Jurgen Klopp – 3
Klopp made some big decisions for this game, and they all backfired. He needs to take responsibility for that. Yes, most of the players were individually poor, and that’s not something Klopp can control, but the warning signs have been there, and have seemingly been ignored.
The decision to revert to a 4-3-3 was predictable given that Klopp had previously hinted that the new 4-2-3-1 system would be played depending on the opposition for now, but it’s questionable as to why he’d so carelessly change what had been a winning formula. We hadn’t been back to our absolute best with the new system, but there were positive signs including a more productive midfield and more varied attack.
To his credit, he made three good, positive substitutions. However, some will argue that they all could’ve come on even sooner, in particular, Shaqiri, who was bizarrely the last to be brought on.Embed from Getty Images
What the Result Means
The reaction to the result and performance mightn’t have been so severe if it weren’t for the context that surrounded it. Here’s what Liverpool need to do to qualify for the knockout rounds of the Champions League:
Beat Napoli 1-0
Winning the game 1-0 would put Liverpool level on points and head-to-head results with Napoli, but clear of them on goals scored, which is the next criteria.
OR Beat Napoli by a Two-Goal Margin
If Napoli score, then the Reds will have to win by two or more to advance. This would leave us level on points, but leading on head-to-head results.
OR Beat Napoli and Have PSG Drop Points to Red Star
Any win would be good enough if PSG were to do the unthinkable and lose or draw to Red Star. Here’s hoping the Serbians are as up for that one as they were against us. Funnily enough, If PSG drop points and Liverpool win, then the Reds would finish top of the group on head-to-head results.
Ultimately though, we can only count on ourselves and will have to put in a heroic effort to progress. A draw won’t cut it, we’d be relegated to the Europa League in that case, and a loss could mean missing out on Europe altogether if Red Star win against PSG.
It’s important to note that Liverpool are responsible for their own rubbish performance and painful result, however, there were a few things that didn’t help matters.
I generally don’t go after referees as it’s a difficult job, and for the most part, referees do a good job. One mistake in a game, even a big mistake, can be forgiven by more sympathetic fans, but this bloke was dreadful. Every second foul was given the wrong way, he showed yellow cards far too easily except in the case of Marco Verratti who should’ve been sent off a handful of times, and he had to be told by his assistant that a clear foul had been committed in the box. How UEFA could allow someone so incompetent to officiate over such an important game is beyond me.
PSG can be proud of the way they played but should be ashamed of their pathetic theatrics. Neymar was, of course, the worst offender, but Di Maria, Silva, Marquinhos, and many more were doing it too. You have to wonder what goes through their minds when they watch games back and see themselves rolling around like morons. I understand gamesmanship, and in this case it worked as the Reds lost their heads, but that doesn’t make it any less despicable. It’s one of the last blights on the beautiful game.
Problems to Address
Klopp’s got his work cut out for him now. Of course, few teams will be able to run through us as PSG did, but that doesn’t make the signs any less ominous. The result means Liverpool have lost all three of our European away games this season, a far cry from last year’s dizzying highs travelling abroad.
You’d like to think that this will be a kick up the backside in the vein of Tottenham away last season, but that’s perhaps too optimistic in the context of how we’ve been performing in general. Our attack is still a major concern, but not nearly as much as the midfield. The middle of the park holds the key for both ends of the pitch.
This is what Klopp needs to sort out as the highest priority because if our midfield is playing well, then our defence has to do less and our attackers will have more chances than they know what to do with. 4-2-3-1 has to be utilised from now on with Shaqiri as a starter. As for who will play as the double pivots? The jury’s still out on that one. What do you think?
You’ll Never Walk Alone
Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog and Fields of Anfield Road – 29/11/2018