Liverpool, Wednesday @PeopleSports11
Liverpool turned the page on defeat in May’s Champions League final and showed why they are even stronger candidates to win a sixth European Cup this season as they launched their campaign in style against Paris Saint-Germain.
The home side left it late to seal the win at Anfield on Tuesday, with Brazil’s Roberto Firmino coming off the bench to edge a five-goal thriller 3-2 in stoppage time.
But the scoreline did not reflect the gap in quality between Jurgen Klopp’s well-honed unit and a PSG side that still looks like a collection of star individuals.
PSG fielded a £400 million (Sh52.5 billion) frontline of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edison Cavani, but once again on a Champions League night away from the French capital the visitors wilted.
“Football still has the capacity to make the richest of men seem very foolish if they pursue glamour at the expense of substance,” was the verdict of Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
Despite their shortcomings, the sheer amount of individual star quality should still ensure PSG have enough to see off Napoli and Red Star Belgrade to make the last 16.
Even though he was kept quiet for almost the entire 90 minutes, Mbappe seized the one big chance that came his way to make it 2-2 seven minutes from time.
But on this evidence, only one team from Group C look like serious contenders to end Real Madrid’s dominance of the Champions League in the Spanish capital next June.
“It’s true we expect a lot from our front three and perhaps today it was tough for them. We have to improve all over the field,” admitted PSG boss Thomas Tuchel.
Much has been made of Liverpool’s own significant strengthening in the transfer market to turn the progress made under Klopp into trophies.
Yet, other than goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who did not make a save of note, Klopp included no summer signings in his starting line-up.
Liverpool rode the firepower of their own fantastic front three of Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to reach the final last season. But aside from the Brazilian’s late intervention, it was the more unsung heroes of Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum who controlled the game in midfield.
Milner scored the penalty won by Wijnaldum for Liverpool’s second and dispossessed Mbappe to set up Firmino’s winner.
“We look now much more tuned than it maybe was in the past,” said Klopp. By the time Liverpool got to Kiev in May they were running on empty as a thin squad ran out of gas, particularly when talisman Salah was forced off early by injury. -AFP