LOST IN NAPLES

Defending Cham­pi­ons Liver­pool Fal­ter As VAR Takes Cen­trestage

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Sport - Liver­pool are the sec­ond reigning cham­pi­ons to lose their open­ing match of a Cham­pi­ons League cam­paign af­ter AC Mi­lan in 1994/95.

Naples: It didn’t take long for VAR to be­come a talk­ing point as the video ref­er­ee­ing sys­tem made its de­but in the Cham­pi­ons League group phase.

Liver­pool coach Juer­gen Klopp was left livid over a penalty awarded to Napoli that helped the Ital­ian side beat the defending cham­pion 2-0 on the tour­na­ment’s open­ing night Tues­day.

Dries Mertens con­verted the penalty eight min­utes from the end of an en­ter­tain­ing match af­ter a con­tentious foul by Andy Robert­son on Jose Calle­jon. Sub­sti­tute Fer­nando Llorente then sealed it in stop­page time with his first goal for Napoli — a mea­sure of re­venge af­ter play­ing on the Tot­ten­ham side that lost last sea­son’s fi­nal to Liver­pool.

Klopp thought that Calle­jon ex­ag­ger­ated the con­tact af­ter Robert­son was ad­judged to have tripped the Spa­niard in the area. “I’m pretty sure there are dif­fer­ent views on that. When a player jumps be­fore there is con­tact it is not a penalty,’’ Klopp said.

Klopp then won­dered aloud how the ref­er­ees came to the de­ci­sion. “I’m not the best loser but I’m not a bad loser. It was a de­ci­sion made by hu­man be­ings. As long as hu­man be­ings make the de­ci­sions there is po­ten­tial for fail­ure. The ref­er­ees and the VAR were all Ger­man, and they have ex­pe­ri­ence with the VAR in Ger­many,’’ said Klopp, who is also Ger­man. “I’m sure they will find an ex­pla­na­tion on why they did the right thing.’’

Still, he was not al­to­gether dis­cour­aged. “That was the game changer tonight and we have to ac­cept the re­sult,’’ he said. “We are re­ally crit­i­cal with our­selves but it was not a re­ally, re­ally bad per­for­mance.’’

The lat­est chap­ter in what is be­com­ing an in­tense ri­valry be­tween the two at­tack­minded clubs, who also met in last sea­son’s group phase, was full of ac­tion.

The at­mos­phere in­side the newly ren­o­vated Sta­dio San Paolo was elec­tric from the start as both sides at­tacked re­lent­lessly from the open­ing whis­tle. “It was very bal­anced match,’’ Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “They’re the best squad in Eu­rope and they were again tonight, be­cause they forced us to be ex­tra­or­di­nary.’’

Last sea­son, Napoli also beat Liver­pool 1-0 at home be­fore the English side won by the same score in Eng­land — deny­ing Napoli a place in the knock­out rounds. “I told Klopp to re­lax, be­cause if he loses here, he tends to go on and win the Cham­pi­ons League,’’ Ancelotti said. “I re­as­sured him.’’

CHELSEA BEATEN

The English are off to a poor start this sea­son. Chelsea were beaten 1-0 by Va­len­cia thanks to a vol­ley from Ro­drigo, with Ross Barkley miss­ing a chance to equal­ize when he fired a penalty onto the cross­bar. It was the first Eu­ro­pean test for the newlook Chelsea team un­der coach Frank Lam­pard.

AFP

GAME-CHANGER: Napoli’s Dries Martens cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing from the penalty spot 12 9 3 0

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