Football can sometimes be an incredibly simple game. For example, as Klopp pointed out recently in an interview, in order to win football games you have to score goals. Doesn’t matter how good you are otherwise, if the ball isn’t in the opposition’s net at least once more than it is in yours when the final whistle blows, none of it matters.
Somehow, this particular bit of elementary education seems to have escaped the minds of the Liverpool front line.
It is Mohamed Salah, of all people, who is chiefly responsible for the Reds’ exit from the competition today. The team worked hard for him, and created more than enough opportunities for Mo to put the visitors to the sword. Unfortunately, the Shabaria never got unfolded, and Courtois was made to look like a hero for keeping a clean sheet instead of seeing the goal under his command bleed red. That is not to say that Salah played badly – he was quite excellent in every aspect of the game… except the one that mattered.
Other players had chances, too, but none of them as good as Mo’s. Had he scored that first one two minutes into the game, the kind of chance that on a normal day ends up emphatically in the back of the net, I daresay Liverpool would have crushed Real, maybe even walking away with some ridiculous scoreline. In so many ways, the Reds dominated, even if Alisson had to make a remarkable double save in the later stages of the game to keep a clean sheet of his own.
Alas, scoring just happens to be a fundamental, essential ingredient in winning.
None of this is to take away from the visitors, who came to get a result, and did. Serving as chief harasser to the illustrious Egyptian was one José Ignacio Fernández Iglesias, a.k.a Nacho, who did a terrific job and can be given plenty of credit for the end result. Had Mo finished a couple of those fantastic opportunities he still found himself with, the conclusion would have been quite different, but in sports the final tally is what truly matters, and Nacho earns my nod for man-of-the-match.
If there is any positive to take from the game, it is that it was a good team performance, and pretty much everybody played a part. It served to illustrate Liverpool’s continually improving form, and perhaps gave indication that the Reds are ever more likely to revisit this particular competition next year.
That is, if they can remember the fundamentals.