Humiliation for Liverpool as lively Napoli tear them to shreds – The Guardian

An eruption took place in the shadow of Vesuvius. It was Liverpool, torn apart and destroyed by Napoli on a humiliating night when Jürgen Klopp’s team looked like it. Champions League rookies not experienced finalists from three of the past five years.

The worst European performance of Klopp’s almost seven-year reign – it’s hard to think of another that comes close to the unwanted accolade – produced one of Liverpool’s heaviest European defeats. And a rare, necessary apology from Klopp to the traveling fans afterwards.

Liverpool were torn apart from the start and unrecognizable in every aspect of a Klopp team, leaving the manager to admit: “We have to reinvent ourselves.” The breach will extend from the performance to the dropout.

Klopp stated in advance that he wanted Liverpool to extinguish the emotion and aggression that Napoli to feed in his stadium with football principles and compact defending. His players never read the note. They poured oil on the fiery atmosphere inside the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium instead with a passive, chaotic performance in which their defense was shredded time and time again. When Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa scored Napoli’s second in the 31st minute, it could easily have been 5-0 to Luciano Spalletti’s lively side. They missed a penalty, hit a post and had a shot cleared off the line. The hosts cut through at will in the first half in particular. Liverpool, terrible from back to front, offered little resistance and were flattered by a 4-1 defeat.

The Liverpool manager’s instructions were abandoned after 42 seconds. Amir Rrahmani and Stanislav Lobotka brought the ball out of defense with casual ease before Giovanni Di Lorenzo sent Victor Osimhen racing into a 50-50 with Alisson. The pacy striker got there first but swept a shot from a tight angle against the base of the post. Napoli revealed their hand to play quick, incisive passes behind the Liverpool defence. The visitors paid no attention.

Osimhen was almost played through again before the home side took a deserved five-minute lead from the penalty spot. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, or Kvaradona as the Georgian was baptized after his explosive start to life in Naples, teed up Piotr Zielinski for a shot that deviated just wide of Alisson’s goal. It was deflected by the outstretched hand of James Milner, Liverpool’s captain for the night, and Zielinski sent Alisson the wrong way from the resulting clear penalty. Milner soon went into the book for a heavy throw on Zambo Anguissa.

Napoli were awarded a second penalty when VAR advised Spanish referee Carlos Del Cerro Grande to review a challenge by Virgil van Dijk on Osimhen. Play continued after the striker’s attempt to turn inside the Liverpool defender but, on his throw-in screen, the referee spotted contact between Van Dijk and Osimhen’s right foot. Osimhen, not Zielinski, took the second spot kick and in the same direction as the first. Alisson dived to his right to make a fine save and Di Lorenzo skied a gilt-edged chance from the rebound.

While Del Cerro Grande consulted his monitor, Klopp insulted Fabinho and his defenders for their shambolic opening. However, it got worse after the penalty miss. Kvaratskhelia embarrassed Fabinho by spinning him three times in the same move inside the center circle. Osimhen dispossessed the on-going Joe Gomez to advance into the penalty area where Kvaratskhelia stood unmarked. The pass to the 21-year-old was delayed and poor, however, giving Van Dijk a chance to clear his eventual shot off the line.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa heads the ball past Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson to score Napoli's second goal.
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa heads the ball past Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson to score Napoli’s second goal. Photo: Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

It was soon two when Gomez was dispossessed again, this time by Kvaratskhelia. Zambo Anguissa exchanged passes with Zielinski and strolled into the area without meeting a challenge before beating Alisson with a cool finish. It was his first Napoli goal but not the end of Liverpool’s torment. As bad as Klopp’s team were, and their problems weren’t limited to defense with Mohamed Salah struggling to control the most routine of passes, they created enough openings to dampen Napoli’s spirits. Goalkeeper Alex Meret turned in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick and saved well from a van Dijk header. Salah and Harvey Elliott also missed decent chances.

Liverpool appeared to have been granted a reprieve when Osimhen limped off injured before the break only for his replacement, Giovanni Simeone, to score Napoli’s third with one of his first touches. Gomez’s terrible night continued when he was outmaneuvered and tackled by the excellent Kvaratskhelia near the touchline. The Georgian crossed low for Diego Simeone’s son to convert a simple tap-in.

Gomez was unsurprisingly hauled off at half-time and replaced by Joël Matip. But the failure rolled on. Within two minutes of the restart Simeone found Zielinski sprinting into the Liverpool area unmarked and, although the playmaker’s shot was blocked by Alisson, he slotted the rebound over the keeper. The finish underlined the swagger that ran through the Napoli team.

Luis Díaz reduced the deficit in style when he cut in from the left and beat Meret with a fine finish into the far corner. Liverpool’s first ever goal in Naples was no cause for celebration. The visitors controlled the closing stages but were comprehensively beaten in the stifling Italian heat, outclassed and humiliated by a team that wanted victory more.

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