Napoli 2-0 Liverpool: Mertens and Llorente down Champions League holders

By Sports Desk September 17, 2019

Dries Mertens and Fernando Llorente struck late to earn Napoli a 2-0 win at home to holders Liverpool in the first game of the Reds' Champions League defence.

Carlo Ancelotti's men won the corresponding fixture last term with Mertens' spot-kick and Llorente's injury-time goal enough to ensure history was repeated in the Group C clash at the Stadio San Paolo on Tuesday.

Andy Robertson was deemed to have tripped Jose Callejon in the box and, after VAR ratified the penalty decision, Mertens squeezed his penalty past Adrian in the 82nd minute.

Liverpool rode their luck in reaching the knockout rounds in 2018-19 and Jurgen Klopp's men will again have to bounce back from an away loss to Napoli this year after Llorente's first goal for the club sealed all three points.

Napoli had an early strike ruled out for offside when Hirving Lozano headed home the rebound after Adrian's excellent double save from Fabian Ruiz.

Sadio Mane's shot was saved by Alex Meret in the 20th minute - Liverpool recording their first shot on target in the game having failed to manage any in last season's visit.

And the Reds should have gone into the break 1-0 up, Firmino heading wide a fine James Milner cross on the Brazil forward's 200th Liverpool appearance.

Napoli had the first big chance of the second half, Adrian showing superb reactions to prevent Mertens from turning in Fabian's deep cross, then Mane overhit a pass to Mohamed Salah as Liverpool broke at speed.

Liverpool were starting to build pressure and, after successive errors from Kalidou Koulibaly and Kostas Manolas handed him a sight of goal in the 65th minute, Salah's drive was turned around the post by Meret.

Napoli's goalkeeper had to deny Mane again as Liverpool looked to finish strongly, but when Callejon jinked into the box he went over Robertson's outstretched leg to win a penalty.

Mertens had to wait for the VAR check, but calmly drilled his strike past Adrian, with Virgil van Dijk's terrible error in stoppage time ensuring former Tottenham striker Llorente could ease home a second.

Related items

  • Guardiola concerned over player welfare following festive fixture changes Guardiola concerned over player welfare following festive fixture changes

    Pep Guardiola admitted "the broadcasters are the bosses" in response to Manchester City's rearranged festive fixture list - but again called for players to receive greater protection amid punishing schedules.

    City were initially set to travel to Wolves on Boxing Day but that game has been pushed back by 24 hours for live coverage, with the Sheffield United home game moved to December 29.

    Still, they have less than 48 hours of rest between those two fixtures - with the reigning Premier League champions then starting 2020 by hosting Everton on January 1.

    While a fan of playing during the Christmas period, a custom that he has become used to since moving to England, Guardiola fears the desire to squeeze in so many matches is a major concern.

    He used the example of Neymar - who suffered a hamstring injury while playing for Brazil in a friendly against Nigeria last week, ruling him out for up to four weeks - as an example of the risks of playing too often.

    Asked for his thoughts about City's fixture changes announced this week, Guardiola told the media: "It is what it is. Since I came here, every season it happened the same.

    "The broadcasters are the bosses in this situation. I love to play Boxing Day and winter time when everybody stops, when families and kids go the stadiums and enjoy the games. I like it.

    "The problem is the same. So now Neymar is injured again, but they travel for friendly games in Nigeria or Abu Dhabi, or wherever far away, then come back.

    "We don't protect the players – the system doesn't protect them. It's too much. Honestly, it's too much."

    Guardiola was speaking ahead of Saturday's trip to Crystal Palace - a game that could see both Kevin De Bruyne and John Stones return from injury.

    While stopping short of confirming the duo will be available to feature at Selhurst Park, the City boss was upbeat over their outlook.

    "Some of them are better. Kevin is back and John trained in the last two days and is good," he said. "[Benjamin] Mendy as well, maybe later, but as well."

    Sergio Aguero was involved in a minor car crash in midweek, but Guardiola had positive news on the striker's status: "He is fine. The car is not fine."

  • He doesn't need it! - Klopp laughs off question about giving Solskjaer advice He doesn't need it! - Klopp laughs off question about giving Solskjaer advice

    Jurgen Klopp laughed off a question about advice he would have for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, insisting the embattled Manchester United manger does not need any despite their historically bad start to the new campaign.

    Klopp's league-leading Liverpool visit Old Trafford on Sunday with United off to their worst ever Premier League start, having taken just nine points from eight games.

    United are 15 points behind Liverpool in 12th, with their woeful form leading to great scrutiny on club icon Solskjaer in his first full season in charge.

    Speaking at a media conference ahead of this weekend's clash, Klopp was asked by a Norwegian journalist if he had any advice for his counterpart, eliciting a loud laugh from the former Borussia Dortmund boss.

    "He doesn't need it. He is in that club altogether now for 10-15 years. He was there as a player, he knows everything there," Klopp said.

    "He made his experience as a manager in football. I know people think sometimes that a manager has to manage Real Madrid before you can take over Barcelona. That's not the truth. He knows, it just has to work out.

    "That's how it is for all of us. That's why so many managers get the sack, if some people internally lose patience, then we have to go.

    "From my point of view, it looks like he's settled there, they all knew it would be a difficult job to do. Nobody loses against you because you are Liverpool or because you are Manchester United, it's about the things you do on the pitch.

    "On the other side they are all on their toes, really motivated when you come there and have a big name and that's part of the challenge we all face.

    "I don't think you have to worry about Ole, he is in a good position and has the chance to win a game. We want to make sure that will not happen."

    Solskjaer's record through 29 Premier League games in charge of United is actually superior to Klopp's was after the same number of matches at the helm at Anfield.

    Asked to compare Solskjaer's situation to the one he faced at that point in his Liverpool career, Klopp said: "I have no clue about his situation really, because it's not important what you are writing, it's more important what the board is telling him, Ed Woodward is telling him, what the Glazer family is telling him. I have no clue.

    "I want every manager in the world to have as much time as he can get too bring through his ideas but you never can compare situations, our situation when I came in, their situation now.

    "Man United is a massive club, it's a massive club and nobody is really ready to wait for success, it was in my case no different.

    "If you would have asked after these first 29 games, all the people here in the room, I don't think there was 100 per cent agreement that I'm the perfect manager for Liverpool. If there was any doubt internally that would be bad, as long as it's only externally, that's not a problem really."

  • Solskjaer: Manchester United job has never felt too big for me Solskjaer: Manchester United job has never felt too big for me

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has never felt the managerial job at Manchester United is too big for him, despite a dreadful start to his first full season in charge.

    After replacing Jose Mourinho in December and initially overseeing a significant upturn in fortunes for United, Solskjaer has seen his side struggle mightily through the first eight games of the new league campaign.

    United head in to Sunday's clash with Liverpool at Old Trafford 15 points behind the Premier League leaders with just nine to their name.

    Twelfth in the table, United have endured their worst start to a Premier League season, increasing the scrutiny on Solskjaer whose only previous managerial experience came with the Red Devils' reserves, Molde and Cardiff City, with whom he suffered relegation from the top flight.

    However, speaking at a news conference ahead of this weekend's encounter, Solskjaer said: "No, I've never felt it's too big for me. I'm confident in what we're trying to do and confident in my staff.

    "The coaching and what's happening here every single day, I've been so impressed. The improvement is there to see for us. Of course, it's about results – start winning games, start scoring goals, that's the main thing. We need to create more chances.

    "At the back, I think we've looked solid, but we haven't been adventurous enough, taking enough risks. If you watch the best teams around, they risk the ball more often than we do, they make runs in behind, and that's part of the process for the boys.

    "When they're losing confidence, they maybe want to play it a bit more safe, but it's my duty to say, 'Come on, then – it's not safety that does it here. At this club, you take risks'."

    Asked what is different from when he took over in the wake of United's 3-1 loss to Liverpool that ended Mourinho's tenure, Solskjaer replied: "The culture I'm seeing every day, the attitude in training, the desire of the players that are here, they want to give absolutely everything for us.

    "At times [last season], I didn't feel they had the robustness, the mentality at times. We've been working really hard on the physical robustness, the conditioning. We've had injuries, but that's maybe part of the process.

    "I remember when Jurgen [Klopp] came in [at Liverpool], if we compare, he also seemed to get a few injuries early on because of maybe the work load and intensity he wanted his team to play in… you don't see that any more. He can play with the same 11 every week. We'll get there."

    Goalkeeper David de Gea is unlikely to face Liverpool after sustaining a groin injury on international duty for Spain, but Solskjaer provided a positive update on his condition.

    "I don't expect him to play but it wasn't as bad as feared," he added. "When I saw the game, I thought, 'That's him out until the next international break', as we've had some long-term muscle injuries, but it's not as bad as first feared.

    "Hopefully we'll see on Sunday who's come through the last two sessions. There are players here who have just started training and are on the verge of coming back. I can't really say."

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.