Liverpool secured their progression to the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds as they edged past Napoli 1-0 at Anfield on Tuesday evening.
Mo Salah gave Jurgen Klopp’s men the lead during the first-half as he skilfully stabbed past David Ospina in the 34th minute. That was the way it remained despite Liverpool carving out numerous opportunities to make their route through to the last-16 more comfortable.
Liverpool start the better
With the stakes so high, Mo Salah really should have opened the scoring early on as he latched onto an excellent ball from Trent Alexander-Arnold. However, the Egyptian could not bring the ball under control as it dribbled harmlessly into the arms of David Ospina.
James Milner also went close but could only nod over the bar. Sadio Mane also had the ball in the net during the first-half as he stabbed the ball home but the referee ruled the strike out for offside.
Salah strikes when Liverpool need him most
The Reds did not have to wait much longer to seize a crucial lead through Salah. The Egyptian, at top speed, twinkled his way past Kalidou Koulibaly in the penalty area and poked the ball underneath Ospina into the far corner.
Sloppy play from Napoli almost allowed Liverpool to double the advantage and it was once again Salah. He was fed by Roberto Firmino but could only hit the base of the post from close range.
The Brazilian then had an opportunity of his own but could only put a tame header straight into the arms of Ospina. James Milner then also bent a teasing shot just wide of the Napoli goal as Liverpool aimed to turn the screw.
Chances continue to flow
Klopp’s troops continued to threaten at a determined rate in order to get to secure their progression. Salah again managed to break the Napoli backline but was twice foiled by Ospina.
The Colombian was in inspired form and again produced a fantastic save to halt Mane’s low effort from Robertson’s cross.
The Senegalese should have wrapped up the victory in the final stages but somehow shanked the ball wide. Salah did excellently to cross to Mane and he was only yards out. The ball did ripple the net from his first-time effort but it was instead the outside to the bemusement of the majority of Anfield.
Alisson pays off his huge fee
One goal could have changed everything though and aubstitute Arkadiusz Milik could have broken Liverpool hearts in the final minutes as he got free at the back post. He took the ball down and aimed to roll the ball underneath Alisson. The Brazilian goalkeeper stood firm to produce an incredible reaction save to deny the Pole.
Mane again was guilty of spurning a huge chance as he charged through one-on-one but somehow rolled the ball wide of the Napoli goal.
The Alisson save looked huge as barely seconds later, the final whistle went to confirm Liverpool’s inclusion in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.
Liverpool did exactly what they needed to do to get through, score one goal and make sure they didn’t concede. It truly was a battle against Napoli with both sides obviously keen to progress. The Reds should probably have scored more having created plenty of guilt-edged chances but as it happened, one goal was enough to make sure they got through unscathed as the runners up in Group C behind Paris Saint Germain.
Liverpool: Alisson (7); Alexander-Arnold (7) (Lovren (N/A), 90′), Matip (7), van Dijk (7), Robertson (8); Henderson (7), Milner (7) (Fabinho (N/A0, 85′), Wijnaldum (6); Salah (7), Mane (6), Firmino (5) (Keita (N/A), 79′).
Napoli: Ospina (7); Rui (6) (Ghoulam (6), 70′), Koulibaly (6), Albiol (7), Maksimovic (6); Ruiz Pena (6) (Zielinski (6), 62′), Hamsik (6), Allan (7); Callejon (5), Mertens (5) (Milik (6), 67′), Insigne (6).
Goals: Salah (34′)
Referee: Damir Skomina
Yellow Cards: van Dijk (13′), Koulibaly (40′), Salah (83′)
Red Cards: N/A
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