Alisson the 'lifesaver'

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker has kept 10 clean sheets in 16 Premier League games this season, and this crucial stoppage-time save against Napoli on Tuesday gave the Reds the 1-0 win to advance to the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker has kept 10 clean sheets in 16 Premier League games this season, and this crucial stoppage-time save against Napoli on Tuesday gave the Reds the 1-0 win to advance to the knockout stages of the Champions League.PHOTO: REUTERS

Klopp says he would have paid double for 'keeper whose save sends Reds into last 16

LONDON • Jaws dropped when Liverpool splashed out £65 million (S$111.8 million) for goalkeeper Alisson Becker in July.

Critics said the hefty investment went against the conventional wisdom; this was the kind of money clubs were supposed to invest in goalscorers, not goalkeepers.

If keeping 10 clean sheets in 16 English Premier League matches this season is not proof of his calibre, then the Brazilian's crucial stoppage-time save against Napoli in the do-or-die Champions League Group C clash on Tuesday would surely have vindicated Jurgen Klopp's unwavering faith in him.

Mohamed Salah's fine first-half strike had put Liverpool on course for the 1-0 win required to pip the Italian team to second place behind group winners Paris Saint-Germain on goals scored.

Last season's finalists faced elimination, however, when Napoli's Arkadiusz Milik had a glorious chance to equalise in the 92nd minute, only for Alisson to block at point-blank range and send Liverpool through to the last 16.

That reflex save was worth almost £11 million to Liverpool, in terms of money for the victory and qualification, and Klopp said afterwards that he would have paid double for his "lifesaver".

"If I knew Alisson was this good, I would have paid double," the Liverpool boss said of the 26-year-old.

"It was not only one save. He had a lot of things to do tonight. How cool and calm he was with the ball helps us a lot in our build-up.

  • 8

    Number of extra goals the average goalkeeper would have conceded than Alisson in the Premier League and Champions League combined this season, based on Opta's xG model.

  • 9

    James Milner's Champions League assists after creating Mohamed Salah's winner - more than any other player since the start of last season.

  • 18

    Liverpool's unbeaten European home streak, 16 of them under Jurgen Klopp (13 wins, three draws).

GIANT OF A GOALKEEPER

It was not only one save. He had a lot of things to do tonight. How cool and calm he was with the ball helps us a lot in our build-up. When he comes out for crosses, he is outstanding. And, yes, that save was just incredible.

JURGEN KLOPP, Liverpool manager, on his goalkeeper Alisson Becker.

"When he comes out for crosses, he is outstanding. And, yes, that save was just incredible.

"But, if we don't defend the whole pitch like we defended, Ali cannot make 20 saves like the last one.

"He did it: incredible, unbelievable. I never saw something similar. But still he needs the other boys around him. I couldn't be more proud of all the people involved."

Klopp also claimed Liverpool's all-round display was worthy of a place in the knockout stages for the second successive season.

"The game was outstanding, unbelievable," the German added.

"The boys played with their whole hearts on the pitch. Our offensive defending, our offensive pressing was some of the best I've ever seen.

"The intensity we played with was just difficult to deal with. Yes, we could have scored more, but 2-0 doesn't help a lot.

"The goal Mo scored. What a goal, unbelievable. And the save Ali made, I have no words for that.

"That was, of course, a lifesaver. I'm really proud tonight."

Kalidou Koulibaly admitted that Napoli paid the price for paying too much respect to Liverpool.

The Senegal defender told Sky Sport: "Maybe, unconsciously, we feared Liverpool because we know they are very strong and that it's not easy to play against them."

Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti was proud of his side's effort but insisted that Virgil van Dijk should have received a straight red card for a dangerous challenge on Dries Mertens in the first half.

Instead, the Dutchman received only a yellow card, which will rule him out of the first leg of the last-16 tie in February.

"From the video, it is a red card," said the Italian. "There are a lot of questions about VAR (Video Assistant Referee) but, when VAR comes into the Champions League, it will be too late."

Liverpool will find out their last-16 opponents when the draw is made on Monday and van Dijk said on current form, few sides will fancy drawing them.

"I don't think so. That's what we showed last season and this season as well," he said. "We'll see what's going to happen."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 13, 2018, with the headline 'Alisson the 'lifesaver''. Print Edition | Subscribe