Dire Liv­er­pool fall to shock 2-0 Cham­pi­ons League de­feat in Bel­grade, but PSG’s draw with Napoli gives them hope

Sport360 - - Front Page - By Alex Rea @AlexReaS­port ✉

Liv­er­pool face the threat of crash­ing out at the Cham­pi­ons League group stage af­ter a shock 2-0 de­feat to Red Star Bel­grade in the Ser­bian cap­i­tal on Tues­day.

Mi­lan Pavkov scored twice in seven first-half min­utes to hand Red Star their first Cham­pi­ons League vic­tory in 26 years.

Liv­er­pool are still sec­ond in Group C af­ter Paris Saint-Ger­main drew 1-1 with Napoli in Italy, but the Premier League side face both those sides in their fi­nal two group games.

Here are the talk­ing points from a rau­cous Ra­jko Mitic Sta­dium.

Liv­er­pool’s mis­placed ar­ro­gance

Jur­gen Klopp in his team se­lec­tion (the Ger­man made three changes with Daniel Stur­ridge, Adam Lal­lana and Joel Matip be­ing brought into the side), the team se­lected and per­haps even the Liv­er­pool sup­port­ers were mis­guided in their be­lief they could sim­ply turn up and walk all over Red Star Bel­grade.

To be hon­est, there has been this mis­placed ar­ro­gance to Liv­er­pool all sea­son, a self-en­ti­tled at­ti­tude in which they ex­pect to pro­duce re­sults without ac­tu­ally need­ing to per­form.

They have got­ten away with it through the early part of the cam­paign but in Ser­bia, Red Star fi­nally de­liv­ered an ego check.

Tal­ent alone isn’t al­ways enough to se­cure vic­to­ries be­cause without the men­tal traits of de­sire and tenac­ity, sides of any qual­ity will al­ways have an op­por­tu­nity to hum­ble you.

And the hosts pos­sessed plenty of for­ti­tude and just enough abil­ity in key mo­ments to see off the wretched Reds.

In­deed, for just about ev­ery as­pect of the game, Liv­er­pool were atro­cious. Even ba­sic fun­da­men­tals like first touches and crosses were well below the stan­dard ex­pected of this group, point­ing to men­tal de­fi­cien­cies.

There was no ur­gency, no vi­brancy and cer­tainly no ac­cu­racy. The per­for­mances all round were so dire, it’s dif­fi­cult to ac­tu­ally pin­point any sin­gle per­pe­tra­tor. Klopp when asked if he can put his fin­ger on went wrong, replied: “I only have 10 fin­gers...”

Only Mo­hamed Salah with his en­ter­prise can es­cape be­ing chas­tised. Three straight Cham­pi­ons League de­feats for the first time in the club’s his­tory and just two at­tempts on tar­get in their last two away as­sign­ments point to prob­lems.

Last sea­son’s fi­nal­ist are in se­ri­ous dan­ger of go­ing out in the group stages, and given the con­ceited at­ti­tude, they de­serve to be.

That rous­ing vic­tory over Paris Saint-Ger­main in the open­ing fix­ture seems a long time ago now.

Mid­field dis­as­ter

Want to know which player’s rep­u­ta­tion has swelled in re­cent weeks? Jor­dan Hen­der­son.

Without even play­ing the in­jured Liv­er­pool cap­tain’s im­por­tance on this team has been made ob­vi­ous.

Af­ter all, who would have guessed that a mid­fielder with great com­mu­ni­ca­tion, ur­gency and the abil­ity to change tempo with ac­cu­rate short pass­ing would be so crit­i­cal?

If you’re won­der­ing what ex­actly it is that Hen­der­son does, then just ob­serve the state of Liv­er­pool’s mid­field in Bel­grade.

James Mil­ner was rightly hailed for his ex­cel­lent start to the sea­son, but he’s been well below the lev­els dis­played in the early months.

Ge­orginio Wi­j­nal­dum has sim­i­larly dipped and the per­for­mance from the mid­field­ers was a nadir, but one that isn’t all that sur­pris­ing given their one-paced and lim- ited dis­plays of late. This col­lapse of con­fi­dence has been build­ing and the re­turn of an en­er­getic Hen­der­son along­side Naby Keita is fast be­com­ing a ne­ces­sity.

If there is one statis­tic which best il­lus­trates the mid­dle men’s dire dis­play, it’s the fact zero tack­les were won from the trio of Wi­j­nal­dum, Mil­ner and Adam Lal­lana in the first half.

In­ci­den­tally, we haven’t men­tioned Lal­lana. A 30-year-old in­jury-prone mid­fielder who looks past his prime and hasn’t come close to repli­cat­ing the form of two years ago is not ex­actly the qual­ity squad op­tion Klopp was talk­ing about when it came to the dis­cus­sion of claim­ing tro­phies.

A 65.7 per cent pass com­ple­tion rate for Lal­lana says ev­ery­thing you need to know about how well he played in Bel­grade.

Time to talk about Alis­son Becker

Liv­er­pool paid an ex­tor­tion­ate amount of money to sign Alis­son from Roma and suf­fice to say, the Brazil­ian is not ex­actly liv­ing up to the glow­ing rep­u­ta­tion he de­vel­oped in Italy.

In­deed, Liv­er­pool’s res­o­lute rear­guard, led by the tower of strength Vir­gil van Dijk, has kept his work­load rel­a­tively sim­ple so far. But in the last two fix­tures, cracks have ap­peared.

Just be­cause he is far bet­ter than Loris Kar­ius and Si­mon Mig­no­let, doesn’t mean that he should es­cape ex­am­i­na­tion or that more shouldn’t be ex­pected.

Against Ar­se­nal at the week­end, the 26-year-old was ex­tremely for­tu­nate when he wildly flew out of his goal and clat­tered Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan who could have ei­ther scored or earned a penalty when his header trick­led just wide.

In Bel­grade, he was er­ro­neous for Mi­lan Pavkov’s sec­ond. Yes, the strike was sweet but the ball was within reach­ing dis­tance only for the stop­per to dive to his right and stretch for the ball with his left hand.

Re­spected an­a­lyst and for­mer goal­keeper David Preece even backed the as­ser­tion he should have done bet­ter with the ef­fort. Alis­son is far from alone in that re­gard, though.

Pav the way: Mi­lan Pavkov thun­ders home his and Red Star Bel­grade’s sec­ond on the night.

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