Humiliation for Liverpool as vibrant Napoli rip them to shreds.
A rupture occurred in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. It was Liverpool, ripped apart and destroyed by Napoli on a humiliating night when Jürgen Klopp’s team resembled Champions League novices not seasoned finalists from three of the past five years.
NAP: Zielinski pen (5th min)
NAP: Anguissa (31st min)
NAP: Simeone (45th min)
NAP: Zielinski (47th min)
LIV: Diaz (49th min)
The worst European performance of Klopp’s near seven-year reign – it is hard to think of another that comes close to the unwanted accolade – produced one of Liverpool’s heaviest European defeats. And a rare, necessary apology from Klopp to the travelling fans afterwards.
Liverpool were torn open from the outset and unrecognisable in every facet of a Klopp team, leaving the manager to admit: “We need to reinvent ourselves.” The rupture will extend from the performance to the fall-out.
Zielinski scored a brace
Van Dijk cleared off the line with the goal gaping for Khvicha Kvaratskhelia but Napoli doubled their lead when Zielinski teed up Anguissa, who fired under the onrushing Alisson.
Alex Meret tipped away a goal-bound Van Dijk header before Simeone, on for the injured Osimhen, turned Kvaratskhelia’s driven cross into an empty net on the stroke of half-time.
Zielinski doubled his account just two minutes after the break, dinking over Alisson on the rebound following Simeone’s pass, before Diaz curled into the bottom-right corner after Andy Robertson’s offload.
Meret pushed a powerful Diaz header over from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross but Liverpool were unable to recover after a toothless first-half showing.
What we learned from Napoli vs Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp has a Virgil van Dijk-sized problem
and it’s Virgil van Dijk. Since signing Van Dijk in January of 2017, Liverpool have always been exactly as good as Van Dijk was in a given season. Signed for $100 million, he became the best defender in the Premier League, and then the world, rather quickly. In his first two and a half seasons, Liverpool won the PL, won the Champions League and also finished as runners-up in Europe. Then he tore his ACL, missed 33 games, and Liverpool had to claw and scrape to a 4th-place finish. Van Dijk quickly returned to close to the full version of his former self, and Liverpool lost the title by one measly point. And now, 2022-23 is turning into a nightmare for the Dutchman, now 31 and showing the signs of rapid decline you’d expect from someone his age.
Something has to give. Either Van Dijk has to come out of the team against the PL and UCL’s elites, or Liverpool have to strike a vastly different balance between attacking/pressing freedom and defensive solidity. He is no longer the human eraser who can bail Liverpool out of two or three or four massive threats each game. The incredible blocks and sliding tackles have turned to more whiffs and penalty kicks than Liverpool’s margin of error can withstand.