Liverpool vs PSG: Roberto Firmino's late winner rewards dominant display from Jurgen Klopp's men

Liverpool 3-2 Paris Saint-Germain: Roberto Firmino comes off the bench to win it after the French giants fight back from two goals down

Liam Twomey
Tuesday 18 September 2018 22:12 BST
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FIFA 19 Official Trailer with UEFA Champions League

Roberto Firmino came off the substitutes' bench to score a late winner at Anfield as Liverpool's dominance over Paris Saint-Germain was rewarded on the opening night of Champions League action in Group C.

Goals from Daniel Sturridge and James Milner put Liverpool in a commanding position in the first half, but Thomas Meunier's strike against the run of play gave PSG hope of a fightback before the interval and Kylian Mbappe appeared to have ensured a share of the spoils when he fired low past Alisson late on before Firmino's intervention.

Here are five things we learned from Anfield:

Roberto Firmino was Liverpool’s saviour (Reuters)

Liverpool are no longer Champions League underdogs

All of Liverpool’s recent adventures in Europe’s elite club competition – and those of Klopp, in fact – have been imbued with a sense of the vibrant underdog riding the crest of a confidence wave.

No more. The same summer of investment that has brought them to the level of Premier League title contenders has established them as genuine European giants. PSG’s cautious approach to their trip to Anfield underlined their belief that they were faced with equals, sitting deep, surrendering the midfield and hoping to counter.

Even more impressively, it mattered not. Liverpool have become as accomplished at controlling games with the ball as they always were at sewing chaos without it, and they patiently picked PSG's lethargic defensive lines apart. In the end, the scoreline flattered the visitors.

(PA)

PSG are as sloppy as they are talented

It has become a running theme of the Champions League in recent years to see how PSG, a team of stars built with the virtually limitless resources of a sovereign state, will manage to torpedo their own chances of European glory. On the evidence of Tuesday at Anfield, they will continue to find new ways to disappoint.

The French champions do not pass or press like a coherent unit. They certainly don’t look like a Thomas Tuchel side, and it’s tempting to wonder whether any tactical ideologue will ever be able to impose his vision on a group of such illustrious and headstrong individuals.

Marco Verratti’s return from suspension will bring some sense back to the PSG midfield, but the dream attacking trident of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani seem only occasionally aware of each other’s existence.

PSG have never made it beyond the quarter-finals of the Champions League and, if their growing list of defeats should have taught them anything, it’s that talent alone is not enough.

Liverpool celebrate their opening goal of the night (Getty Images)

Sturridge is still a footballer – and a good one

Amid all the pre-match talk about Firmino’s readiness for this game, it was easy to forget that Liverpool have another excellent striker – one who scored 21 Premier League goals only four years ago and who, at 29, should be at the peak of his powers.

Injuries have taken away what might have been of Sturridge’s career and he is a less than ideal fit for Klopp’s gegenpressing system, but he remains a finisher of the highest quality when fit and confident. He is even better when given several yards of space to work with in the penalty area, as Thiago Silva afforded him when caught under the flight of Andy Robertson’s cross.

It was nice to see Sturridge remind everyone of the talent he still has on what was, incredibly, the first Champions League start of his career, even if Firmino subsequently showed why he will rightly remain the undisputed first-choice focal point for Klopp’s dynamic attack.

Neymar is challenged by Jordan Henderson (Reuters)

Neymar is no closer to his Ballon d’Or dream

If you ignore the mind-boggling sums of money involved, Neymar left Barcelona for PSG in the summer of 2017 to escape the legendary shadow of Lionel Messi and finally stake his own claim to be considered the best player in the world.

His statistics in Ligue 1 have been predictably outrageous – 23 goals and 14 assists in 24 appearances – but he has regressed as a match-winner at the elite level. At Anfield he floated stylishly but superfluously on the periphery of the game, one shot fired straight at Alisson his only significant contribution to an occasion that should have been his stage.

Such displays have become worryingly common for Neymar since joining PSG. His individualism was less of a problem at Barcelona, probably because Messi and Luis Suarez played for each other as well as themselves.

Neymar’s outrageous talent only makes his current drift all the more galling. He will never win the Ballon d’Or if he is never the best player in any game that matters.

Kylian Mbappe celebrates his equalising goal (Reuters)

Heavyweight match-ups bring the group stage to life

Too often the Champions League’s opening round feels like a listless exercise in going through the motions, with many of Europe’s heavyweights sleepwalking through their six matches without ever feeling the need to engage top gear.

That will always happen to an extent, of course – see Barcelona’s rout of PSV – but the draw has done us some favours this time around. Liverpool’s clash with PSG carried a real sense of occasion, if not quite knockout intensity, and a great atmosphere at Anfield.

Barcelona are unlikely to find it as easy from here on out, with Tottenham and Inter Milan still to navigate in Group B. Juventus, Manchester United and Valencia battling for two qualification spots from Group H should also be genuinely interesting to watch.

The knockout stage will always be where the real drama happens, but matches like this one at least give us a welcome taste of what lies in store later.

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