Liverpool FC drew first blood in Group C by defeating PSG 3-2 at Anfield. The Reds looked the better team for most of the game and quite deservedly won in the final few minutes, courtesy of a Roberto Firmino goal. PSG were disappointing on the night and star player Neymar cut a frustrating figure, losing way too many balls and not contributing much for his team.
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The game started with PSG monopolizing possession but that only lasted a few minutes as Liverpool pressed well and went on the offensive. James Milner, in particular, deserves praise for a complete performance in his midfield role. He helped contain Neymar, intercepting important passes and runs and intelligently re-launched play for his own team. It was all Liverpool in the first half and PSG were very lucky to get one goal when a loose ball ricocheted off Robertson to fall into Meunier’s path, who finished expertly, reducing the score to 2-1 for Liverpool, after Sturridge and Milner had earlier given Liverpool the lead.
In the second half, the game did not change much. Tuchel kept his team playing the same way, perhaps hoping for a lucky break. It came in the in the 83rd minute when Neymar finally came out of his stupor to split open the Liverpool defense and Mbappe scored from the ensuing scuffle. As a neutral, I felt Liverpool were being cheated. A draw would not do justice to their performance on the night. Roberto Firmino, who was on the bench at the start of the game due to an eye injury over the weekend, stepped up and after dribbling his way into the PSG box, magnificently blasted a low shot past Areola who could only watch as Liverpool won the game 3-2.
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PSG’s star triumvirate of Cavani, Mbappe and Neymar were surprisingly ineffective against Liverpool. Whether it’s the low quality of the opposition in Ligue 1 or Liverpool’s high pressing game, PSG did not seem to be able to cope with their opponents. Neymar, in particular, did not enhance his reputation with his body language and reluctance to track back when Liverpool were 2-0 or 2-1 up. He retained the ball too much, trying to conjure something extraordinary on his own rather than releasing his colleagues fast. At least Mbappe was disciplined defensively and making runs to try and destabilize the Liverpool defence. Had a coach like Guardiola been the boss at PSG, Neymar might have been substituted for Draxler early on. Bad attitude does not fly with Pep.
On the Liverpool side, one major disappointment was Mohamed Salah. Continuing his poor form from the first few games of the season, the Egyptian who was so deadly and sharp in front of goal last year, looked very low on confidence. PSG’s equalizer came because of his sloppiness in possession. Shaqiri must be wondering what he must do to get a chance on that right wing. The Swiss international was buzzing with creativity once he came on. Apart from Salah, the rest of the Liverpool team were spot. Daniel Sturridge took one of his rare chances to show Klopp he can be trusted as a number nine.
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Klopp’s Liverpool showed they are a top team and could improve on their last campaign by winning the Champions League this time. PSG looked like amazing individuals who have not yet jelled as a team. They are currently nowhere near the level required to win the top prize in European football.
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