Napoli tore Liverpool apart on matchday one of the Champions League, racing into a 4-0 lead within the first 47 minutes and completely embarrassing the lacklustre 2022 finalists.
Piotr Zielinski scored twice, once from the penalty spot and assisted Andre-Frank Zambo Aguissa. Giovanni Simeone, son of Diego, also got in on the act, while Victor Osimhen even missed from the spot and hit the woodwork. Luis Diaz have Liverpool their consolation.
Napoli started the game at 100mph and Osimhen hit the outside of the post from a tight angle after only 42 seconds, having surged past Joe Gomez through the middle. The home side were well worth their lead just four minutes in when James Milner’s outstretched arm saw the referee point to the penalty spot – Zielinski made no mistake from 12 yards.
Osimhen was proving to be a real handful for the Liverpool defenders and won a second Napoli penalty with still less than 20 minutes on the clock. A VAR check showed boot to boot contact from Virgil van Dijk, who was booked. Osimhen took it himself, but Alisson was equal to it this time.
Liverpool didn’t much threaten until midway through the first half when home goalkeeper Alex Meret got fingertips to a dipping Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick.
But still it was relentless Napoli on top and Liverpool soon had Van Dijk to thank for a goal-line clearance after Gomez had been poorly disposed by Osimhen. The Nigerian then unselfishly squared it past Alisson to Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, only for Van Dijk to block the final shot.
Gomez was again poor when Napoli did get their second, too easily possessed, although his ball-watching teammates also didn’t cover themselves in glory. It was far too easy for Anguissa to play a one-two with Zielinski to manoeuvre into position and coolly finish past Alisson.
Napoli even lost Osimhen to injury late in the first half, which could have been a major blow to their chances. But more really lax Liverpool defending led to a quick third for replacement Simeone. Gomez and Alexander-Arnold were both culpable as Kvaratskhelia played it across for the Argentine making his Champions League debut.
Jurgen Klopp hooked the hapless Gomez at half-time, but substitute Joel Matip was hardly any better, caught cold as Zielinski scored Napoli’s fourth. The Pole reacted quickest to a rebound off Alisson, who saved the initial shot. Again, it was all too easy from a Liverpool perspective.
After half-time, Diaz looked the Liverpool player most likely to make something happen and did so with a fierce but measure shot into the far corner. The Colombian’s powerful header not long after brought a decent save from Meret – Diaz was also spared when Klopp hooked the barely seen Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino with almost half an hour left.
A slew of substitutions from both managers ultimately affected the rhythm of the game in the second half. Liverpool did improve with Thiago on the pitch, but there may also have been an element of Napoli lifting off the gas with such a comfortable lead.
1. Napoli (4-2-3-1)
GK: Alex Meret - 7/10 - Made a few good saves that could have given Liverpool some hope had he not.
RB: Giovanni Di Lorenzo (c) - 7/10 - Strong in the tackle.
CB: Amir Rrahmani - 7/10 - A job pretty well done.
CB: Kim Min-jae - 8/10 - Headers and clearances. Defended well and really impressed considering it was his Champions League debut.
LB: Mathias Olivera - 7/10 - An easier night against Salah than he would have been expecting before kick-off.
CM: Stanislav Lobotka - 7/10 - Did the important dirty work in midfield that allowed others to perform.
CM: Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa - 8/10 - Brimming with swagger and confidence to run rings around Liverpool.
RM: Matteo Politano - 7/10 - Didn't see a lot of the ball but worked really hard. Withdrawn pretty early to freshen things up.
AM: Piotr Zielinski - 10/10 - Once heavily linked with Liverpool and ran them ragged. Good value for his two goals and got an assist.
LM: Khvicha Kvaratskhelia - 8/10 - Gave Alexander-Arnold no end of trouble. Liverpool were relieved to see him go off after 57 minutes.
ST: Victor Osimhen - 7/10 - Looked like he would give Liverpool problem all night with his electric feet, but only last 41 minutes before injury struck.
SUB: Giovanni Simeone (41' for Osimhen) - 7/10 - Had his goal within a few minutes of coming in. Easy tap in.
SUB: Alessio Zerbin (57' for Kvaratskhelia) - 6/10
SUB: Hirving Lozano (58' for Politano) - 6/10
SUB: Mario Rui (74' for Mathias Olivera) - 6/10
SUB: Eljif Elmas (74' for Zielinski) - 6/10
Coach: Luciano Spalletti - 10/10 - Perfect selection, perfect tactics.
2. Liverpool (4-3-3)
GK: Alisson - 5/10 - Helpless to prevent the goals flying in because of the atrocious defending in front of him.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold - 3/10 - Did a few things going forward but was so disappointing defensively. Lacked any kind of desire to defend.
CB: Joe Gomez - 2/10 - Osimhen surged past him to hit the post less than a minute in and it kind of summed things up. Really poor a number of times.
CB: Virgil van Dijk - 4/10 - Caught out when he gave away the second penalty but a goal-line clearance stopped Liverpool going further behind. Overall, really bad by his usual standards.
LB: Andrew Robertson - 5/10 - Not as woeful as the rest of the back four, which was a pretty low bar.
CM: Harvey Elliott - 6/10 - Had a bit more energy than some in red.
CM: Fabinho - 4/10 - Stood ball watching for Napoli's second goal. Off the pace in general and looked a bit fatigued.
CM: James Milner (c) - 4/10 - Not bad on the ball but just didn't have the legs to physically compete with a relentless Napoli.
RF: Mohamed Salah - 3/10 - Had a couple of shots but wasn't making things happen and only played 63 minutes.
ST: Roberto Firmino - 4/10 - Not his night.
LF: Luis Diaz - 7/10 - The only one of Liverpool's front three that made an impact and lasted more than 63 minutes.
SUB: Joel Matip (46' for Gomez) - 6/10 - A ropey start but ultimately a significant upgrade on Gomez - his experience showed.
SUB: Thiago (63' for Milner) - 7/10 - Gave Liverpool a foothold.
SUB: Darwin Nunez (63' for Firmino) - 6/10
SUB: Diogo Jota (63' for Salah) - 6/10
SUB: Arthur (77' for Elliott) - 6/10
Coach: Jurgen Klopp - 5/10 - Probably couldn't have picked a better starting XI and didn't take any prisoners with his substitutions, but things just didn't go as they were supposed to. Players off the bench did improve it.