Competition: Champions League Group Stage
Date: 13th September 2017
The Champions League returned to Anfield tonight for the first time since 2014. We’ve won it five times, you know? Yes, Liverpool have won Europe’s premier club competition five times in their illustrious history. They didn’t do themselves proud in their last showing three years ago. Now was the chance to put that right, starting tonight.
Liverpool lineup – Karius, Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Moreno, Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mané
Subs: Mignolet, Klavan, Robertson, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coutinho, Sturridge
Sevilla lineup – Sergio Rico, Mercado, Pareja, Kjaer, Escudero, Pizarro, N’Zonzi, Banega, Navas, Ben Yedder, Correa
Subs: Soria, Corchia, Daniel Carrico, Krohn-Dehli, Sarabia, Muriel, Vazquez
Anfield was hopping and it was refreshing to hear the Champions League anthem at the stadium again. An atmosphere such as tonight’s was bound to get the team going.
It took only one minute for Liverpool to register their first strike on goal. Good work on the left from Mané was followed by a pass inside to Wijnaldum. Gini laid the ball off nicely for Emre Can who was about 25 yards out. Can tried to place his effort from that distance and it ended up being a comfortable save for Rico.
In the fifth minute, Escudero played in a good low cross from the left which should’ve been cut out by Dejan Lovren. Somehow, Lovren let it go under his boot and Ben Yedder was there to finish it from close range. There is an argument that Moreno could’ve been better positioned defensively to deal with the cross if it came in. Sevilla made the Reds pay with their first attack of the game. 0-1.
Liverpool responded very well to going one down. Wijnaldum had a shot within two minutes of their goal. His strike took a wicked deflection off a defender and went just wide of Sergio Rico’s right-hand post.
Two minutes later, Salah broke at speed (strange, that!) down the right. He pulled the ball back to Mané who put in a first-time shot which was well saved by Rico. Henderson swung in an excellent cross from the resulting corner and Bobby Firmino got his head to it. His header went just over.
In the 21st minute, Liverpool equalised. There was some great work on the left from Moreno who played a low ball into Henderson. The captain hit a first-time return pass back to Moreno, sending him to the byline inside the box. Moreno accelerated, made the ball and pulled back a great low cross which Firmino turned into the net. Nothing Sergio Rico could do about that. 1-1.
Emre Can almost put Liverpool in front two minutes after that. His low shot from inside the box was just dragged wide of Rico’s left post. Liverpool were really upping the tempo now and seemed to be enjoying it.
In the 36th minute, Salah ran into trouble after cutting in from the right. He lost the ball but was extremely impressive in his desire to win it back from N’Zonzi. He got the ball back from the big midfielder, turned and got a shot away. His long-range shot deflected off of Kjaer, looping over Rico. Salah’s desire created that goal from nothing! 2-1 Liverpool.
Moreno was booked on 39 minutes for a clumsy challenge on Jesus Navas. Liverpool were still looking good going forward.
Three minutes later and the referee was blowing the whistle in Liverpool’s favour. Tricky play from Mané on the left had Pareja in all sorts of trouble. There could’ve been a claim for handball but it didn’t matter as Pareja ended up grabbing Mané around the waist in trying to control him. Mané and Pareja both went to ground and Liverpool were awarded the penalty.
Firmino stepped up to take the penalty. He sent Sergio Rico the wrong way but his shot hit the outside of the right-hand post and deflected away from the goal.
Half-time: Liverpool 2 – 1 Sevilla
The second half started with much the same tempo that the first half was played in. Having said that it was the 63rd minute before any shot of note was taken. Firmino got a low strike away from outside the box. It had Rico diving but went wide of the left post.
A minute later and Joe Gomez was booked for pulling back Correa.
In the following couple of minutes, both Mané and Wijnaldum had shots go close but nothing to extend the lead.
Luis Muriel had come on as a substitute for Sevilla. His introduction saw his pace cause all sorts of new problems for the Reds’ shaky defence.
In the 72nd minute, it was Muriel who put Correa through the centre, one former Sampdoria man to another. Correa’s finish was top class, curling the ball around Karius and just inside the post. 2-2.
Liverpool’s Coutinho made his long-awaited return for Emre Can on 75 minutes. Sturridge replaced Mané in the 83rd minute and Oxlade-Chamberlain came on for Salah in the 85th minute to make his Anfield and European debut for Liverpool.
The new introductions could not conjure anything of note in the attacking third. In fact, it was Luis Muriel who nearly snatched a winner for Sevilla in the 93rd minute. He outmuscled Joe Gomez to win a long ball on the break. He put his shot wide of Karius’ near post when he really should have hit the target.
Joe Gomez endured further torment as he received a second yellow card in the final minute of injury time.
It finished 2-2. Liverpool’s defensive woes continue. There is a lot of work to be done at that end of the pitch. The question is, will it be done?