Football

Champions League | Liverpool and Napoli left with work to do after Anfield draw

Liverpool's Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring their first goal with Virgil van Dijk, Soccer Football - Champions League - Group E - Liverpool v Napoli - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - November 27, 2019

Liverpool's Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring their first goal with Virgil van Dijk, Soccer Football - Champions League - Group E - Liverpool v Napoli - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - November 27, 2019   | Photo Credit: Reuters

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A Dejan Lovren header in the 65th minute cancelled out Dries Mertens' first-half opener for Napoli, who will head home the happier after another disciplined performance in which they defended deep but posed questions on the counter-attack.

Liverpool and Napoli drew 1-1 in a cagey encounter at Anfield on Wednesday, leaving both sides with work to do to reach the last 16 in their final Champions League group matches.

A Dejan Lovren header in the 65th minute cancelled out Dries Mertens' first-half opener for Napoli, who will head home the happier after another disciplined performance in which they defended deep but posed questions on the counter-attack.

European champions Liverpool lead Group E on 10 points with Napoli a point behind and Salzburg on seven. Juergen Klopp's side are away to Salzburg in their final game while Napoli host bottom club Genk.

Carlo Ancelotti's Napoli will now expect to secure their place in the knockout stage with a win over a Genk side with a solitary point who were beaten 4-1 at home by Salzburg on Wednesday.

Liverpool though will need at least a point in Austria on Dec. 10 to avoid elimination and given their fixture congestion next month - in which they will feature in the Club World Cup in Qatar -- this was a frustrating result.

The Premier League leaders, who could have wrapped up top spot with a game to spare, had to come from behind to get their point and never truly settled into the kind of rhythm for which they have become known.

The night began badly with Liverpool's Brazilian holding midfielder Fabinho limping off in the 19th minute with what appeared to be an ankle injury.

Matters got worse for Klopp when Belgian Mertens put Napoli ahead in the 21st minute with a sweet strike from a tight angle after running on to a through-ball from Giovanni Di Lorenzo.

Liverpool's defence was opened up too easily down their left and the Anfield crowd's agitation increased as two separate VAR reviews were needed before the goal was confirmed.

Klopp was certainly losing his cool and, on the stroke of halftime, he was booked for protesting, shortly after Liverpool had appealed in vain for a penalty after Sadio Mane went down in the box.

There was more intensity about Liverpool after the break and they went close to levelling when Roberto Firmino hooked the ball goalwards but Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly did well to clear off the line.

Mohamed Salah shot straight at Napoli keeper Alex Meret after good work from Andy Robertson and then Firmino headed wide from a promising position.

The equaliser finally came when Lovren headed home from a James Milner corner in the 65th minute and while there was plenty of pressure from the home side in the latter stages they were frustrated by Ancelotti's well-marshalled defence.

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 7:19:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/champions-league-liverpool-and-napoli-left-with-work-to-do-after-anfield-draw/article30102155.ece

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