Football: Klopp hails ‘good reaction’ despite Reds failing to clinch top spot

Liverpool's Darwin Nunez (right) celebrates scoring their second goal with Mohamed Salah. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON – Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was pleased with his side’s ability to bounce back from poor form as late goals from Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez earned a 2-0 victory over Napoli on Tuesday, but it was not enough to deny the Italians top spot in Champions League Group A.

Both teams had already sealed a knockout-stage place, but top spot in the group, and a potentially more favourable last-16 opponent, was still up for grabs, with Liverpool needing to beat Napoli by four goals or more to sneak to the summit.

The first half felt like an encounter where both teams’ main priority had been fulfilled, but the game sprang to life early in the second when Leo Ostigard thought he had put Napoli in front, only for his header to be ruled offside after a VAR (video assistant referee) check.

With nothing to lose and top spot out of reach, Liverpool did at least manage to secure victory on the night, with Salah prodding home at the far post five minutes from time, before Nunez added a second in stoppage time.

Napoli’s 4-1 demolition of Klopp’s men in their group opener in September proved crucial in the end, as they finished on 15 points, the same as Liverpool, but with a better goal difference in clashes between the pair.

“That was the reaction I wanted to see. We showed a really good reaction,” Klopp said after seeing his side struggle domestically so far this term. The Reds are in ninth place and have lost two straight games in the Premier League.

“Being compact makes all the difference. All of a sudden we make challenges in the right places, all of a sudden we are difficult to play against.

“We don’t doubt our quality, I don’t think anyone doubts that, but part of the problem is we show inconsistency. It was the worst possible start to this group with the performance against Napoli. They deserved the first place in the group.”

When the draw was made, few would have tipped Napoli to be group winners ahead of last season’s finalists Liverpool, but Luciano Spalletti’s team have been in sensational form right from the start of the campaign.

Napoli travelled to England unbeaten in all competitions all season, having won their last 13 games in a row – a run stretching back to before their humiliation of the Reds. They have also already scored 50 goals this term.

“We are proud of getting through such a difficult group, not only getting through but topping it,” Spalletti said. “I think we kept the game very even, we created chances for ourselves, we suffered in moments.

“We were playing a giant like Liverpool at Anfield. I can only say well done to my players.” REUTERS, AFP

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