Napoli drew Liverpool 1-1 on Wednesday to push the Reds’ knockout round qualification hopes to the final match day.
Liverpool will advance with a draw or better in Austria against Red Bull Salzburg on Dec. 10. It could also advance with a loss if Napoli fails to beat Genk in Italy.
Salzburg lost 4-3 at Anfield during the first meeting but carries three away goals in case it wins and a tiebreaker is required.
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Dries Mertens scored in the first half, but Dejan Lovren leveled the score in the second half.
Premier League teams would love to have a word with Napoli, or subscribe to their diet or something; The Serie A side has now a 2-1-1 record against the reigning UCL champs dating back to last season.
Three things we learned
1. VAR doesn’t save Reds from opening concession: There were two reviews of Dries Mertens opener, but neither stopped the “1” from staying on the visitor’s side of the scoreboard as the Belgian scored for the second-straight match against Liverpool. Mertens timed his run perfectly well, though at first glance it looked like offside would be the call. Also, as good as the finish was, it was helped by a rare mistake from Alisson Becker. The Liverpool goalkeeper was married to his post.
2. Reds have trouble getting going: Napoli’s plan was to punch Liverpool in the mouth. No, literally. The Neapolitan set had the Reds off balance in the first half hour or so, but goalkeeper Alex Meret was called upon twice in the final 10 minutes to keep the advantage 1-0. The second half was much better, and the Reds could’ve found more than their lone tally.
3. Fabinho injury a worry: Liverpool’s midfield monster walked off the pitch and straight into the tunnel with an apparent hip injury. He was already going to miss this weekend via suspension, so if it’s something small he’ll have some time to heal before the Merseyside Derby on Dec. 4. If it’s not something small, the Reds will have some problems navigating a terribly congested December.
Man of the Match: There wasn’t a true star in this one. Obviously Lovren and Mertens delivered the goals, and Kalidou Koulibaly was good at the back for Napoli. But we’ll give it to James Milner, who left in the 78th minute with an assist to go with 89 percent passing, two tackles, three aerials won, and two dribbles.
Napoli took the lead when Van Dijk was momentarily hobbled while rising above Mertens for an aerial win.
Mertens took off as Napoli gained possession, and the Belgian’s run to meet a Giovanni di Lorenzo through ball was immaculate in beating the line set by Andy Robertson. As noted above, Alisson wasn’t at his best and would’ve needed to be in order to stop a terrific strike.
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Liverpool came to life and might’ve won a penalty due to some Sadio Mane tomfoolery that the referee was correct to dismiss as embellishment (no card, though). The Senegalese star would later rifle a shot that Meret turned away to keep it 1-0 heading to the break.
Mohamed Salah pumped a shot into Meret’s belly at the hour mark as Liverpool fought for an equalizer. Oxlade-Chamberlain then cued up Roberto Firmino for a header that was probably put off by Kostas Manolas.
Liverpool found its answer off a corner kick, James Milner sending it in and Lovren finishing the play.