Liverpool’s opening group stage game provided the perfect opportunity for revenge – a rematch of the 2016 UEFA Europa League final against Sevilla. It was the Spanish side that came out on top on that night and denied Jurgen Klopp’s side entry to last season’s Champions League, but Liverpool improved on that slightly tonight with a 2-2 draw.
The result means that Liverpool have still never beaten a Spanish side in the group stage in seven attempts. Jurgen Klopp will be disappointed to secure only a point, especially considering the amount of chances that his side wasted.
Early drama at both ends, and the beginnings of a sensational game
Jurgen Klopp’s side always start games quickly but it was Sevilla who struck first in this one, shocking the Anfield faithful. Incredibly nonchalant static defending and a fluffed clearance from Dejan Lovren allowed Wissam Ben Yedder to tap Escudero’s cross into an open net and give the Spaniards the lead.
From that moment on however it was all about Liverpool. Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah wreaked havoc down both flanks and the two combined to force multiple saves from Sevilla goalkeeper Rico. Liverpool dominated the possession for half an hour after Ben Yedder’s goal and quick penetrative movement of the ball meant it was only a matter of time before the Reds found an equaliser. In the end it was Roberto Firmino who slotted home Alberto Moreno’s square pass across the six-yard box. The left back played a neat one-two with Jordan Henderson to set up Firmino and put his side back in contention.
Liverpool flex their attacking muscles
Buoyed by Firmino’s equaliser Liverpool pressed on and stepped up their game, playing with frantic urgency. Klopp’s pressing style overwhelmed Sevilla in the first half and Liverpool looked the hungrier side, winning most of the aerial duels. Mane, Salah and Firmino looked for each other whenever they got the ball and Salah finally gave Liverpool the lead after numerous chances went begging. The Egyptian winger made an excellent recovery challenge after losing the ball on the edge of Sevilla’s penalty area, before striking a shot that deflected off Kjaer’s studs and looping over Rico.
Registering a total of 14 shots in the first half, Liverpool should have been even further ahead. The best chance came from the penalty spot after Mané was bundled over by Martín Pareja, but Firmino’s effort struck the outside of the post. The last action of the half came from Moreno, whose low driven shot forced a brilliant save from Rico. The Liverpool left back was involved all over the pitch, getting forward at every opportunity to whip in some teasing crosses, but also receiving a booking for a very rash challenge.
Liverpool enjoy themselves, but that proves costly
The tempo of Liverpool’s play didn’t drop at the beginning of the second half and at times it looked like exhibition football as Salah, Mané and Firmino toyed with the Sevilla defenders. However, the Reds failed to convert any of their chances, with Mané going closest with a sharp turn and shot. An amusing highlight of the half was Sevilla manager Eduardo Berizzo’s sending off after he childishly threw the ball away from Joe Gomez for the second time during the game.
With Liverpool not converting their chances there was always the danger that Sevilla would sneak an equaliser. Joaquín Correa managed just that as he curled the ball past Karius after being slotted in by substitute Luis Muriel. Klopp responded by bringing on Philippe Coutinho who cut a frustrated figure. The Brazilian looked rusty and gave the ball away cheaply, and once Salah and Mané left the pitch Liverpool lacked much attacking threat. They were lucky to hold onto the draw as Muriel missed a golden opportunity in added time, and Joe Gomez was stupidly sent off just before the full time whistle.
This was a game that Liverpool should have won comfortably and with 24 shots it’s remarkable that they only came away with a point. Roberto Firmino’s penalty miss proved costly and it looks as though their defensive frailty will continue to be exploited this season. Missing out on Virgil van Dijk in the transfer window looks like an even bigger mistake following this result.
A draw certainly isn’t the end of the world, and Liverpool have a very winnable group, but it isn’t the result that the Anfield faithful wanted on their timely return to the biggest European stage.
Liverpool: Karius; Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Moreno; Can (Coutinho, 76’), Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 89’), Firmino, Mané (Sturridge, 83’)
Sevilla: Rico; Mercado, Kjaer, Martín Pareja, Escudero, N’Zonzi, Banega, Pizarro (Sarabia, 45+1’) , Jesús Navas (Corchia, 83’), Ben Yedder (Muriel, 69’), Correa
Goals: Ben Yedder (0-1, 5’), Firmino (1-1, 21’), Salah (2-1, 37’), Correa (2-2, 72’)
Referee: Danny Makkelie (NL)
Yellow Cards: Mercado (35’), Banega (38’), Moreno (40’), Pareja (42’), Gomez (64’)
Red Cards: None