At the half-time of the Napoli game, I was sitting there wondering what I would write about. It seemed like Liverpool were destined to pick up a win – not because Liverpool was particularly good today, because neither team was. It was going to come simply because of the grind.
He was excellent today – my man of the match. But he was also a bit arrogant, at least in the first half. And I thought that, wanted, the Reds to put paid to that arrogance, to cash that check. This story’s title would have been the same, but would have had a whole different meaning. Instead, it was the famous front three’s own sloppiness that eventually came into focus, hinting at the same problem in reverse.
Had Liverpool won, the man of the match would have easily been Fabinho, who was again everywhere and in other places, too. But he alone cannot win matches, and it was an out-of-sorts performance from, mostly, of all people, Firmino that led to a poor result. I guess even Brazilian gods can have an off day. It would still have turned out alright if Mane found Salah on that break, but watching the replay, it seems like the latter slowed down in the end before the pass went to the spot where he would have been otherwise. And Mane would have realized it had he looked up before making the pass. It was like that throughout the game, with the Reds both threatening and yet out of focus.
Adrian was great in goal, and a couple of saves were top quality. Even more impressive was his distribution, which a month ago was downright shambolic, and today was solid, even good. Napoli tried to go after him, but he didn’t get phased. Whatever work they did with him during the international break is showing clearly; the old dog has learned some new tricks.
The penalty was soft, but like a colleague said while the game was playing, had it been Salah or Mane we would have been screaming for it, too. Klopp would tell us (or maybe he already has, I have yet to watch the post-match interviews) that it is what it is, it’s football, and we can’t win games by relying on the refs, we have to do it ourselves. And he would be right.
Still, I find myself taking this game philosophically. We needed a kick in the butt, because things were going a bit too easy. I’d much rather us losing this game than the upcoming one to Chelsea. It was a solid reminder that Liverpool always, always has to work hard for good results. The killer chances were there, as they are in every game, and that means that if the team stays sharp, it will win. If it doesn’t, it won’t. Today it wasn’t.
It’s really that simple.