Liverpool made to wait for Champions League progress after frustrating Napoli draw

An irritated Jurgen Klopp gestures on the touchline (getty)
An irritated Jurgen Klopp gestures on the touchline (getty)

Liverpool’s Champions League fate rests on a final day trip to Salzburg after a frustrating 1-1 draw with Napoli at Anfield.

Dejan Lovren’s second half header cancelled out Dries Mertens’ opener for the visitors, meaning the holders will be made to wait to confirm qualification from Group E.

A point in Austria will be enough to go through but Jurgen Klopp will be disappointed not to have sealed their progress with a game to spare.

A cagey opening saw neither side really able to impose themselves on the game, nor create any chances of note.

Liverpool were forced into an early change however when Fabinho limped off after just a quarter of an hour with an ankle knock and was replaced by Georginio Wijnaldum.

Five minutes later, the home side found themselves a goal down. Dries Mertens latched onto Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s ball over the top, carried the ball into the penalty area before drilling the ball across Alisson into the far left hand corner.

Mertens fires Naoli in front. (Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images)
Mertens fires Naoli in front. (Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images)

The Italians were made to wait before celebrating as not one, but TWO VAR checks were needed. Firstly, the officials had to look at whether the goalscorer had committed a foul on Virgil van Djik after the defender was left in a heap, and secondly, whether the Beligan might have strayed offside before firing home.

Unfortunately for Jurgen Klopp’s side, neither check found an infringement and Liverpool suddenly found themselves with work to do.

Liverpool took control of possession but struggled to break down their opponents. Their first attempt of target coming on 35 minutes through van Djik’s header but Alex Meret collected the ball easily to his chest.

As they stepped up the pace, the Reds thought they might have had a penalty on the stroke of half time when Mane went to ground under the challenge of Di Lorenzo but the referee was rightly unmoved.

James Milner then weaved his way into the penalty area but his close range shot from an angle was palmed away by Meret.

Liverpool’s first real chance after the break came when Meret flapped at Henderson’s cross, allowing Firmino to hook a shot at goal but Koulibaly was on hand to turn the ball away for a corner.

Salah and Firmino then both went close as Liverpool looked more and more threatening.

Lovren was Liverpool's unlikely saviour. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
Lovren was Liverpool's unlikely saviour. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

A equaliser felt inevitable and it would eventually come with 25 minutes left on the clock through the most unlikely of sources.

James Milner’s outswinging corner from the right was met brilliantly by an airborne Lovren whose header looped its way beyond Meret into the goal.

Napoli seemed content to play for a draw and restricted the number of chances Liverpool were able to create.

Wijnaldum’s long-range volley was one of the few efforts to get the home fans off their feet but sailed wide of Meret’s left hand post.

Liverpool were unable to find a winner and while they still find themselves on top of the group after five matches, they know they cannot afford a slip-up against Red Bull Salzburg if they are to defend their crown.

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