Jurgen Klopp’s quote after the game described pretty much summed up the Reds’ performance in the Serbian capital on Tuesday evening. When asked by a journalist whether he could “put a finger” on what had gone wrong, the German gaffer replied that he only had ten fingers!
Perhaps we should’ve paid more attention to Napoli’s 0-0 draw against Red Star in Match Week 1. But the Serbian outfit followed up that performance with disappointing 6-1 and 4-0 defeats at Parc des Princes and Anfield respectively, and Reds fans could be forgiven for thinking this might be a walk in the park for their side.
Instead, buoyed on by a partisan (no pun intended!) crowd of 51,318, Red Star kept themselves in competition for a knockout spot with a fine 2-0 win. With Napoli and PSG drawing 1-1 in Naples, the Reds slipped to 2nd in the group. Group C now has Napoli and Liverpool on 6, PSG on 5 and Red Star on 4 with two games to play!
Klopp’s reaction for Milan Pavkov’s fine second goal was telling. Red Star scored twice in the first half and Liverpool looked as flat as they had in Naples a few weeks ago.
Klopp couldn’t field his strongest lineup- Xherdan Shaqiri didn’t make the trip due to non footballing reasons, and with the likes of Henderson and Keita not fit, he had to go with a midfield trio of Lallana, Wijnaldum and Milner. The former looked a shadow of the player he was a couple of seasons ago. Joel Matip had to start in defence along with VVD in the absence of both Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren.
Liverpool’s cause were also not helped by an easy miss from Daniel Sturridge, chosen ahead of Roberto Firmino, minutes before Red Star scored their first goal.
It might not have been their strongest XI, but it should’ve got the job done. But there’s a reason European away games in cities like Naples and Belgrade, who create an atmosphere not too different from what we get at Anfield, are difficult, and Liverpool have found it out the hard way, with no points picked up on the road by the Reds in their group.
It was also the first time that Liverpool had lost a Champions League tie under Spanish referee Lahoz.