Liverpool 1-1 Napoli: Reds grind out draw at Anfield
Image: Getty Images/ Oli Scarff

UEFA Champions League Group E has been left wide open heading into match day six as Liverpool salvaged a point against Napoli in a 1-1 draw at Anfield.

Dries Mertens put the visitors ahead early in the first-half but a second-half header from Dejan Lovren ensured all ended square on a nervy night in Merseyside.

Story of the game

Liverpool nearly capitalised on a Kalidou Koulibaly mistake early on as Mo Salah picked up a loose header in space. He misjudged the flight of his cross, though, and was unable to find Sadio Mane in the box.

Moments later, Mertens had a shot which was blocked by Lovren after the Egyptian gave the ball away. Mario Rui blazed the rebound well over the bar.

Liverpool suffered an early blow as Fabinho was forced off through injury on 18 minutes - Hirving Lozano fell into the Brazilian, who appeared to have an issue with his ankle. 

The midfielder carried on but was substituted shortly after, with Georginio Wijnaldum taking his place. The injury didn’t appear to be too serious, but with the busiest period of the season quickly approaching, Jurgen Klopp took no risks with one of his most important players.

Moments later Virgil Van Dijk seemed to pick up an injury and the hosts switched off. Mertens was played through and, unchallenged, fired past Alisson. There looked to be a foul on the Liverpool defender in the build-up, but the goal stood.

On 35 minutes Alex Meret was called into action to prevent Van Dijk heading Liverpool level. Mane was fouled and the resultant free-kick found the Reds’ no.4 in the box.

A frustrating first half for Liverpool was summed up on 43 minutes as they wasted two corners in quick succession. Andy Robertson’s first attempt failed to beat the first man and was cleared by Allan, his second swung out of play for a goal kick.

On the brink of half-time James Milner skipped through the Napoli defence and into the box to get a shot away. It was comfortably held by Meret.

The Napoli keeper made a mistake early in the second-half, he attempted to collect  Jordan Henderson’s lofted ball but spilt it into the path of Roberto Firmino. The forward should score but it was cleared off the line by Koulibaly.

On 60 minutes Liverpool had the opportunity to break. Robertson found Salah in the box but the Egyptian fired it straight at Meret, without realising he probably had more time on the ball.

But, the hosts had upped the tempo as just moments later substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlains cross found the head of Firmino, who’s attempt flew just wide of the post - a huge opportunity squandered.

It was Lovren who became the hero on the night, though, after he caught the Napoli defence napping at a corner. The defender broke into the box as Milner’s cross came in and headed the Reds level.

Liverpool kept pushing for a winner but the Italian side put in a fantastic defensive display across the 90 minutes, giving the current champions little time and space on the ball and hugely restricted the space in and around the box.

There was a huge shout for a penalty soon after the equaliser as Salah was man handled in the box by Kouliably, the defender had both arms around the forwards' neck.

The referee waved on and VAR didn't step in, much to the frustration of the Anfield crowd.

A late free-kick in added time presented Liverpool with the opportunity to snatch a late winner, but it wasn't to be as Napoli cleared with ease - the final whistle blowing moments after.

The points were shared and Klopp's side failed to wrap the group up with a game to spare - with everything to play for on match day six next month.

Takeaways from the match

A first half to forget

The referee was justifiably booed by the home fans as the whistle blew, but Liverpool were far from their fluid best across the first 45. 

Sloppy passing, a lack of impetus and creativity as well as looking far too exposed on the break left Klopp with a lot to ponder at the break.

Changes were a must and that was evident as the Reds' boss made his second substitution early in the second-half - Liverpool had to go for it.

A difficult night for Joe Gomez

The 22-year-old started at right-back in place of Trent Alexander-Arnold, who dropped to the bench.

Joe Gomez had impressed in training, but the difference in quality couldn't be more obvious, leading to the defender being substituted on 57 minutes.

Henderson filled in at right back before Alexander-Arnold took to the field late on. 

Gomez's crossing had been poor and he looked out of sorts, there is no doubt he should play centrally as opposed to out wide.

Ox and Trent make a difference

After going ahead, Napoli opted to sit deep and restrict their opponents to half chances and aimless crosses into the box - which were easily cleared by their towering centre halves. 

Klopp needed to inject some creativity, with everything going stale for Liverpool in the final third.

Ox's introduction made an instant impact, with his drive and passing carving out better opportunities for the hosts.

Trent came on with 10 minutes to play and provided an outlet on the right flank for Liverpool, but it was too little to late as they were unable to find a late winner.

Liverpool have it all to do in Salzburg

For the third season in a row, the Reds leave it to the final group stage match day to secure their spot in the round of 16.

After RB Salzburg breezed past GENK in the groups' other game, Liverpool must now either draw or win against the Austrian outfit to progress in the competition.

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