Reds blow a three-goal lead and the chance to become the first team to beat Sevilla at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán in over a year…
Liverpool’s Champions League fate will now be decided in the last round of group stage matches after a captivating, and at times unfathomable, 3-3 draw in Sevilla.
Jürgen Klopp‘s men remain favourites to top Group E but could still end up as runners-up or, if Spartak Moscow defeat them at Anfield on December 6, even demoted to the Europa League.
Such permutations looked redundant midway through Tuesday night’s frantic encounter with Los Rojiblancos after the visitors had built a commanding lead.
The Merseysiders were in front after just 88 seconds when a Philippe Coutinho corner was flicked on by Georginio Wijnaldum for Roberto Firmino to sweep home from a tight angle.
Exciting and at times breathless, end-to-end action followed with both keepers forced into some great saves; not least Loris Karius‘ effort to tip a Nolito shot onto the post.
It looked to be only a matter of time until another goal followed but it was anyone’s guess as to who would score it.
It was to be Liverpool, via a stooping Sadio Mané, in a carbon copy of their first goal and just moments after Wissam Ben Yedder had missed a glorious opportunity for the hosts.
A third quickly followed on the half hour mark when Mané got in behind wide left and Sergio Rico could only palm his effort into the path of Firmino, who slotted home from close range.
The Merseysiders could easily have been even further out of sight by the interval as they began to open up a visibly stunned Sevilla at will.
Despite their failure to do so, the opening 45 minutes represented a remarkable scoreline for Liverpool considering the pattern of play, the quality of the opposition, the imposing fortress of a stadium and the importance of the occasion.
What was to follow after the break was even more gobsmacking however.
As they did in the 2015/16 Europa League final meeting between the two, Sevilla struck back quickly after the restart and, as on that chastening night in Basel, Alberto Moreno was culpable; needlessly giving away a free-kick which Ben Yedder then got in front of him at to glance home.
The goal changed the balance of play dramatically and forced Liverpool onto the back-foot during a prolonged onslaught from Eduardo Berizzo’s side that was chiefly orchestrated by the outstanding Éver Banega.
Moreno’s return to his former club took a further turn for the worse in the 58th minute when the left-back miss-controlled on the edge of his own box before dangling out a foot to concede a penalty.
The diminutive and tireless Ben Yedder dispatched the spot-kick at the second attempt after his first effort had been ruled out for encroachment.
It was nothing less than the transformed Spaniards deserved but Liverpool were by now all over the place and doing themselves no favours.
Klopp reacted by sending on James Milner and Emre Can for Moreno and Coutinho and it appeared to have done the trick as the men in red regrouped before enjoying a timely period of possession, territory and threat.
However, with the clock three-quarters of the way through four minutes of injury time, Sevilla dramatically conjured up an equaliser courtesy of Guido Pizarro, who fired through a host of bodies after a poor headed clearance from Ragnar Klavan.
The goal understandably produced pandemonium in the stands with all sorts of paraphernalia reigning down on the outskirts of the pitch.
For a shell-shocked Liverpool it was a depressing climax to a game that had appeared in the bag at half-time and which, had they captured the three points, would have confirmed them as Group E winners.
Attempting to make sense of the madness at his post-match press conference, Klopp analysed: “A fantastic first half of my team and in the second half we made the mistake that we didn’t carry on playing football.
“It’s normal that you try to control the game then, but a team like we are, we have to control the game with the ball – and we didn’t play football anymore. We became a little bit passive, they scored the first one and it was obvious the atmosphere changed immediately. It gave them a big boost.
“Until the second goal, we were reacting but after the second goal I think it was an open game again. We could have scored off counter-attacks, but we didn’t. We opened the door for them and didn’t close it anymore, so they could score in the last minute?
“It’s not the first time it has happened in football and it won’t be the last time. We did similar things already at home; we used our crowd and used our atmosphere. The atmosphere helped Sevilla a lot; they had to show character.
“If this is at Anfield and we are 3-0 up it is different, but because it was here they had to show character in the second half. They did, they fought back, and as I said, we let them come back in the game and that is our main mistake.”
The Reds have the small matter of three Premier League games to tackle before Spartak come to town, starting with the visit of Chelsea to Anfield on Saturday.
So that’s what both us and Klopp thought about the game, how about you? Let us know your views below…
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