Liverpool’s trip to Paris was never going to be easy. On the road in Europe, the Reds have run aground with alarming consistency. Against Paris Saint-Germain, their 2-1 loss has only served to complicate their Champions League ambitions.
After making the final last season, not getting out of the first round would be a massive disappointment. Expectations have been raised for good reason but their away play on the Continent has already proven to be among their worst performances of the season.
The Reds did not start well and the home side was eager to get on top as early as they could. Liverpool stumbled from the first whistle and conceded a soft goal by the 14th minute. For the better part of the first 30 minutes, the capital club was flying and forcing the Reds to just ride the storm.
Eventually, after Alisson was forced into considerably more action than he has been in weeks, Liverpool began to claw their way back into the match. Yet, a blistering counterattack engineered by Neymar and Kylian Mbappe 37 minutes into the evening saw the Merseysiders surrender another.
Liverpool found fighting their way back into it difficult but were eventually given a penalty when Sadio Mané was scythed down by Angel Di Maria just before the break. With a quick conversion from the spot by James Milner, Liverpool had to feel good about their chances in the second half. However, it was not meant to be and they fell 2-1 to their hosts.
Here are four findings from the match.
As strong as Liverpool’s defence has been, this was not their best performance. The first goal resulted from an uncharacteristically error when an Alisson save fell to Virgil van Dijk who misplayed it instead of putting a foot through it. The ball lingered too long under Joe Gomez and Juan Bernat pounced for an easy finish.
The sheer pace PSG could provide gave the Reds fits from the start. With Gomez at right back and Dejan Lovren as the centre-half, the right side of the defence was put under considerable pressure, especially from the likes of Neymar. Traffic continued down that side and eventually led to the second goal as well. Alisson was the only one at the back that could claim to have played well.
Meager in the Middle
Unsurprisingly Jurgen Klopp opted for the midfield that proved so reliable last season with James Milner, Jordan Henderson, and Gini Wijnaldum.
This trio can look remarkably one-paced at times. Their trip to the City of Lights supported that claim without question. PSG were able to drive through the midfield with ease in possession and Liverpool were unable to gain any control through the central areas of the pitch with the ball.
For the first half-hour or so, James Milner seemed the only one capable of even getting close enough to win a ball as Wijanldum and Henderson seemed too spread out and far too slow to challenge the French champions as they marauded forward. Wijnaldum recovered somewhat but Henderson turned in another subpar performance.
Liverpool have begun to find multiple ways to win this season, striking a balance between their growing defence and their attacking prowess.
It has worked well in the Premier League, but against quality European sides that patience has degenerated into possession with little penetration and few chances created. Plus, falling to an early goal also undermines a restrained approach.
Liverpool’s late first-half goal may have given them a sense that they could find a way back but that desire disappeared as PSG seized every opportunity to flop and roll around the pitch with the referee’s indulgence. With Neymar, now the world’s master of childish antics, and an official only missing a red nose, the second half slid from farce into a full-blown circus. Any patience showed by the Reds merely reduced their chances of finding an equaliser and they truly never challenged Gigi Buffon anyway.
While the starting XI might not have been surprising, it was far from fit for purpose in Paris. Apart from Alisson, the entire defensive unit struggled. The front three failed to find any of the synchronisations that they seemed to have regained against Watford. Meanwhile, the muddle in midfield never really got resolved at all. No changes at the break baffled belief.
Always chasing the game and void of any creative spark, Liverpool lacked any link between defence and attack when in possession. By the time Jurgen Klopp made any significant changes it was too little too late. Naby Keita entered in the 66th minute, just long enough to pick up a yellow card but not long enough find his way into the contest.
Daniel Sturridge, who come on after 71 minutes, found even less traction but also picked up a yellow. Only Xherdan Shaqiri, added at 77, even made a remote impact but that was because he took corners. Any in-game adjustments remained ineffective.