Situated on the broadcasting gantry within Anfield’s main stand, Oliver Miller offers his view on Liverpool’s Champions League match against Sevilla
A late equaliser from Sevilla’s Correa denied Liverpool victory on their Champions League return
The atmosphere was palpable – a mixture of anticipation and tension. The gantry was packed with journalists and broadcasters from England, Spain and beyond. Liverpool were back in the Champions League group-stage for the first time since 2014 and they came very close to victory. Yet, it was far from a perfect start. It appeared that Liverpool were still in a daze after Saturdays thumping as with not even five minutes on the clock Sevilla took the lead. Wissam Ben Yedder had the easy task of tapping the ball into the net after Dejan Lovren had fallen over attempting to clear it.
Sadio Mane forced a save from visiting goalkeeper Sergio Rico with a low drive as Liverpool looked to get back into the game, and they managed to do so when Roberto Firmino finished off a fine team move from close range. Liverpool became more dominant and pushed for a second. The football was scintillating. The finishing was not. In the 37th minute, they were rewarded in rather fortuitous circumstances – a Salah strike looped in via a big deflection from Simon Kjaer.
Liverpool were then gifted a penalty after Salah was brought down in the Sevilla penalty area by Pareja, but Roberto Firmino could not capitalise from the spot as his penalty cannoned off the post. The first time Liverpool had missed a penalty in a Champions League game for almost a decade. Considering less than ten minutes before half time it seemed both sides were content with going in level at the break – Anfield was buoyed by the manner in which the match was taking shape.
After halftime, Liverpool were largely untroubled as Sevilla grew more and more frustrated. Their troubles were compounded as manager Eduardo Berizzo was sent to the stands for throwing the ball away petulantly. Sevilla dominated the ball and eventually found an equaliser in the 72nd minute. Correa latched on to a through-ball from substitute Luis Muriel and steered the ball into the bottom corner – a high-quality finish from the Argentine who impressed throughout the evening.
Liverpool’s lackadaisical approach in the second half had cost them. They did attempt, however, to try and claw back the lead. Coutinho was welcomed onto the pitch by the Anfield crowd for his first performance of the season but was unable to inspire Liverpool to victory. Joe Gomez’s second yellow card in stoppage time added insult to injury for the hosts.
At the full-time whistle, the overriding emotion was frustration. Liverpool had had the chances to come away from the opening matchday with a win but once again it was the team’s defending that cost them. Questions were raised about the lack of domination shown by the midfield trio for the second game in succession. The defence looked as shaky as it should when personnel is changed after every game. A sense of continuity would not do any harm in instilling a working relationship between the back five. But Liverpool need to learn, and quick, because at this level being clinical with chances, not switching off and having authority in defence is what is needed to progress.
Mohamed Salah was Liverpool’s most potent threat – yet again using his pace and technique to trouble the Sevilla defence – even if it was in fits and starts. The front three as a whole flowed really well at times. They managed to create several chances but failed to take them – compared with Sevilla who had only two shots on target and scored with both.
The midfield and defence were not up to speed. Can, Henderson and Wijnaldum were second best to their Sevilla counterparts – N’Zonzi, in particular, was given plenty of time on the ball to shine. The Sevilla midfielder, who has become an integral part of the side, completed an impressive 96.3 percent of his 82 passes which was more than any other player on the pitch.