As we reached the halfway point in the Champions League group stage, It was time for the Reds to make the long trip to Belgrade to face Red Star. After Matchday 3, we sat on top of the group with 6 points with Red Star being bottom of the group with 1 point.
Liverpool were without Jordan Henderson once again and Xherdan Shaqiri was left at home due to political tension, but Naby Keita returned to the squad on the bench. Klopp made 3 changes to the side that drew against Arsenal with Joel Matip, Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge all coming into the starting 11 to replace Gomez, Firmino and Fabinho.
Red Star manager, Vladan Milojević, had former Chelsea midfielder Marko Marin in contention and he started the game. Milan Borjan was once again in goal. The centre backs both remained the same, with Srđan Babić and Miloš Degenek both keeping their places, Filip Stojović remained at right back but Milan Rodic came in at left back. The central midfielders were Krsticic and Jovancic with Marko Marin sitting in front of them as 10. The two wide men remained the same from the last tie and Pavkov was back to start up top for Belgrade
The match was preceded by the hosts screaming “F*** you Liverpool” and that very much set the tone for what was sure to be a cagey European fixture. To try and avoid some of the animosity from the Serbian side, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp left Xherdan Shaqiri in England. The reasoning behind the Swiss international’s absence from the squad dates back to the World Cup this summer. In a match between Switzerland and Serbia, the aforementioned Shaqiri scored a late winner for the Swiss side and afterwards proceeded to taunt the Serbian fans with the “Albanian Eagle” salute by joining his hands together at the thumbs. The story behind his celebration is a very long and complicated one, but to say Shaqiri would have been less than welcome in Belgrade would be a drastic understatement.
The Serbian side finally broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute, when striker Pavkov headed home from a Marko Marin corner which was out of Alisson’s reach. It only took another six minutes for Pavkov to find the back of the net again, after Wijnaldum lost possession in midfield, with a sensational strike struck from long range and the Reds found themselves in a 2-0 hole going into the break.
After a very poor first half performance Liverpool, Klopp’s men had a mountain to climb after conceding 2 unexpected goals in the first half to get themselves back into the Group C tie.
The first chance of the second half came within the first 3 minutes and fell at the feet of Senegalese forward Sadio Mane. Roberto Frimino’s cross was deflected by a Red Star defender and fell into the path of Mane. However, he could only get the slightest of touches on the ball and blocked by the Red Star defence.
The next action, as Liverpool looked to fight back, also came thanks to a deflection. A cross from Robertson was deflected onto the crossbar thanks to the head of Belgrade’s top goalscorer this season, Ben El Fardou. Liverpool were dominant in possession, finishing the game with 72%, as Red Star looked to sit back and park the bus to maintain their two-goal cushion against Klopp’s men.
The rest of the game’s action came from Mohamed Salah, with him having 3 chances within the last 20 minutes. The first was after the Red Star keeper parried the ball into the path of the Egyptian. However, his half-volley could only rattle against the post and away for a goal kick.
The second chance was nothing but a half-chance really, Matip brought the ball down from a Gomez long throw putting Salah one-on-one with the keeper. He may have been one-on-one but it was on a tight angle and his shot was straight at Borjan. In stoppage time, Salah had another chance but his low drive was shot straight at the keeper.
It has to be said it was a rather disappointing performance from The Reds, especially after the rather convincing 4-0 victory in the reverse fixture two weeks ago at Anfield. There wasn’t any real stand out performers for Liverpool, with many fans picking out Adam Lallana for what they regarded as a rather poor performance. If chances had been put away fans and the team would’ve been coming away from the Serbian capital much happier as there were enough chances in the game to easily take all 3 points, despite their two goals.
The other two sides in Group C, Paris and Napoli, played out a 1-1 draw at the Stadio Olimpico. Due to this result, Napoli now overtake the Reds to top the group due to the head-to-head rule despite Liverpool having a larger goal difference.
Next up in the Champions League, it is Paris Saint Germain at the Parc des Princes towards the end of the month. Paris have shown their quality at home this season after demolishing tonight’s opponents 6-1, however, in the reverse fixture Liverpool came out on top 3-2 with the late Firmino winner. A win against PSG in the French capital would all but see Klopp and his men through to the round of sixteen. Liverpool’s away record isn’t great but if they play like they did in the hom fixture they should have enough to take all 3 points back to Anfield.
Before the game against Paris, the focus changes to Fulham at home as The Reds are back in Premier League action.
Come on you Reds!