Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne pounces in added time to down off-key Liverpool

Napoli 1-0 Liverpool: Lorenzo Insigne finally broke the deadlock to hand the home side three points

Simon Hughes
Stadio San Paolo
Wednesday 03 October 2018 22:24
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Lorenzo Insigne scored the winner in added time
Lorenzo Insigne scored the winner in added time

When, on Tuesday, Jurgen Klopp was asked by an Italian journalist to remember the goals that sent him back to Germany in defeat after his last visit to this brutal stadium, he convinced with his claim that he could not offer the details because he discards the worst moments away and moves on.

Klopp has admitted before, however, that he is a carrier of experiences. He knows what it is like trying to break Italian defences because he had tried eight times before, ultimately losing on five occasions.

A generous assessment would say his record might have explained Liverpool’s early restraint here but this would manifest into something Klopp did not want and that ultimately was another loss to an opponent from Serie A sealed by a goal from Lorenzo Insigne.

This was a wretched performance and a deserving outcome that merits criticism because of Liverpool’s improvidence in possession, particularly from the midfield. Meanwhile, when their attacking trio did have capitalise on Neapolitan defensive mistakes – though none of them would come from the outstanding Kalidou Koulibaly – it became a theme, seeing the ball skid away on a surface greased by thin Tyrrhenian showers.

If you could excuse Mohamed Salah for missing chances against Chelsea by reasoning that he was, at least, still in the positions, it was not an option this time – though the same could be said for Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

And yet, context is necessary here because it would be considered a disappointment if Liverpool’s did not win their next two Champions League outings, conclusions that has a chance of securing qualification to the knockout stages by the time these sides next meet at Anfield in December. What this exhausting evening means for Manchester City’s visit, meanwhile, will only be revealed on Sunday.

Liverpool react to their late concession

Klopp had warned that Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli would be more defensively minded than the version moulded by Maurizio Sarri, who has since gone to Chelsea and unlocked the attacking instincts of its most creative players, notably Eden Hazard.

There may have been a temptation to believe that both managers, indeed, had engaged in a battle of bluff, with Ancelotti praising Klopp for moving Liverpool up a few levels and Klopp responding by saying the current distance between Liverpool and Napoli isn’t by much. It is easy to forget where Liverpool were when Klopp took charge while Napoli – despite drawing with the group’s weakest link in the opening fixture – have, after all, competed in the Champions League in six of the last eight seasons, a period where Liverpool have featured only three times – two of them under Klopp.

A combination of available thoughts might have been accurate when placed together but there was no doubt Red Star Belgrade’s pasting in Paris earlier in the evening imposed more immediate pressure on Napoli. They certainly could not afford to lose this game considering what comes next for them in back to back contests with PSG.

Initially, it was difficult to assess whether Klopp was executing a more careful game-plan or whether Napoli’s 4-4-2 formation was causing problems because of the prominence of their two wide midfielders. Liverpool’s threat, remember, is unleashed when the opponent leaves gaps, giving them the chance to counter-attack and try to enforce maximum punishment.

Napoli would develop as the more convincing team and Liverpool’s play became untidy. It is not often Virgil van Dijk allows a striker to turn him sharply but Arkadiusz Milik was able to quite easily and Alisson saved well from the subsequent release.

Liverpool trudged on to half time without further alarm bells. Napoli, though, would continue to push forward and soon after the break, Milik launched another drive towards Alisson from long range, with the Brazilian not responding convincingly this time.

Napoli had other opportunities but their shooting was dire. Dries Mertens, sent on as a substitute for Milik, slammed a header past Alisson having been served beautifully by Mario Rui and like the woodwork, Liverpool were really shaking.

At 5ft 4inches, Insigne had been like a dragon fly, flitting about here, there and everywhere. He had earlier ended Naby Keita’s involvement with a block tackle. Finally, right at the end, he would steer in Jose Callejon’s cross, ensuring a scoreline that reflected what had really happened.

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