Liverpool 1-0 Napoli: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Mohamed Salah Sends Liverpool Through to Last 16


Liverpool progressed to the Last 16 of the Champions League as they defeated Napoli, thanks to Mohamed Salah's first-half strike and a wonder save by Alisson in injury time.

The first chance of the game fell to Liverpool in the sixth minute, as Salah was played through on goal. However, his touch let him down for once and the ball trickled into David Ospina's arms. 

Liverpool had the ball in the back of the net in the 21st minute, but the goal was correctly disallowed with Sadio Mané in an offside position.

However, Jürgen Klopp's side were not to be denied and they took a deserved lead in the 33rd minute as Salah spun past Mario Rui and finished between David Ospina's legs, who should have done much better in truth.

Napoli should have found the all-important equaliser in the 78th minute, as Lorenzo Insigne's low cross was steered over the bar by Jose Callejón when it looked easier to score. 

In the 92nd minute, Alisson produced a huge save as Arkadiusz Milik seemed destined to equalise for Napoli. However, the Brazilian shot-stopper got a big hand to it and kept it out, sealing the Reds' place in the Last 16 in the process.


Key Talking Point

There never seemed to be any doubt as to whether Liverpool would score against Napoli at Anfield, but the main worry must have been whether they would be able to keep a clean sheet. Carlo Ancelotti's side have scored 32 goals in Serie A, the same number as Juventus.

However, the Reds have been spectacular defensively this season and have conceded the least amount of goals in the Premier League so far this season. Their defensive solidity showed once again tonight, marshalled by the colossal Virgil van Dijk. On tonight's showing, Liverpool's defence could well take them all the way in this year's Champions League.

Player Ratings

Starting XI: Alisson (7), Alexander-Arnold (7), Matip (7), Van Dijk (8), Robertson (8), Wijnaldum (7), Henderson (6), Milner (7), Salah (8)Firmino (6), Mané (7)

Substitutes: Fabinho (6), Lovren (6), Keita (6), Sturridge, Mignolet, Shaqiri, Origi

STAR MAN: As he so often is for Liverpool, Salah was the star man tonight. The Egyptian stepped up just when his side needed him most and scored an excellent solo goal to put the Reds 1-0 up in the first half.

WORST PLAYER: Roberto Firmino has been disappointingly quiet so far this season and it was another anonymous performance from the Brazilian against Napoli. 

Where Firmino was instrumental in linking Liverpool's attack last season, he seems to rarely get involved in their attacking play in this campaign. The Brazilian has never possessed a huge goal-threat so when his creativity goes missing, so does he. 


Key Talking Point

Going into this Champions League clash, Napoli knew that if they could keep a clean sheet then they would be going through to the Last 16. Therefore, the question was whether their defence could keep one of the most prolific attacks in Europe. 

Whilst Carlo Ancelotti's defence performed admirably, they were ultimately unable to keep the Reds out. Napoli was constantly outdone on their left-hand side, with Salah running rings around Rui. They then just didn't have enough going forward to score that vital goal. 

Player Ratings

Starting XI: Ospina (5), Maksimovic (6), Albiol (6), Koulibaly (7), Rui (4), Callejón (6), Allan (7), Hamsik (6), Ruiz Peńa (5), Insigne (6), Mertens (6)

Substitutes: Ounas, Zielinski (6), Hysajs, Karnezis, Ghoulam (7), Diawara, Milik (6)

STAR MAN: Standing at 6' 5" tall, Kalidou Koulibaly is an imposing figure in the heart of the Napoli defence. His strength often seems super-human and his recovery pace is surprisingly impressive. 

Whilst Napoli failed to keep the all-important clean sheet, Koulibaly was immense. His aggressive defensive style gave Salah a great deal of trouble throughout the game and, without the Senegalese defender, Napoli wouldn't have stood a chance. 

WORST PLAYER: Mario Rui had an absolute nightmare against Liverpool. Napoli's left-back was terrorised all evening by Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold and showed very little resistance. 

Salah's opening goal came from Rui getting far too tight to Salah, allowing the Egyptian to roll his man and finish beyond Ospina. Koulibaly was often tasked with coming to the rescue of Rui and the left-back was the clear weak point of Napoli's defence.

Looking Ahead

Liverpool next face Manchester United in the Premier League as they look to consolidate their position at the top of the Premier League table, and will now await the Last 16 draw for the Champions League.

Napoli, meanwhile, face an away trip to Cagliari as they seek to make up ground on league leader Juventus, with a Europa League spot now awaiting them after tonight's events.

The goal was vital to relieve the pressure around Anfield and it allowed Klopp's side to control the remainder of the game. Salah's goals are so important to this Liverpool side and, if the Reds are to go all the way in the Champions League this year, the Egyptian will play a key role.