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Wasteful in attack & dire in defence: Liverpool still their own worst enemy


Jurgen Klopp was motoring along the touchline, kicking every ball at the end of Liverpool’s first appraisal in Champions League Group E, but the manager shouldn’t have needed to expend all that energy.

His team had been so assertive and so annoying to Sevilla that his counterpart, Eduardo Berizzo, had to be sent to the stands for twice dispatching the ball when the hosts wanted to take a throw-in.

The Reds’ attacking trust, both on the counter and through intricate build-up play, was scorching on a polar night at Anfield, where the opposition were consigned to the status of distinct second best.

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And yet, the final score read 2-2.

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Liverpool had 24 shots in total and their opponents had one on target in each half, but both goalkeepers had to recover the ball from the back of the net the same amount of times.

Just how, in an encounter where they were also awarded a deserved penalty, did the hosts not kill the game off and press cruise control in the closing minutes?

Just how did they find themselves desperately trying to force a victory late on, when the result for so long seemed so safe?

Simply: Liverpool were too effortlessly dissected at one end and not ruthless enough at the other.

Only five minutes after the gigantic roar that followed the first whistle, they displayed an inability to protect themselves with a succession of passiveness and poor awareness before a Dejan Lovren error was rightly punished.

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Emre Can and Joe Gomez weren’t switched on enough to clear danger, the England Under-21 captain too late to affect Sergio Escudero's cross down Sevilla’s left. In a moment that defied belief, the Croatian centre-back missed the weak ball across goal, allowing Wissam Ben Yedder a casual finish.

Klopp went straight back to the dugout and sat next to his assistant, Zeljko Buvac, to run through what he had just seen - he could not fathom how Liverpool had made it so easy for their visitors so early.

"The first goal starts in a situation in the midfield when we can shoot the ball easily away," the Reds boss explained post-match. "Emre is a little bit late in the situation, that's the first moment I realise something will happen.

"Until then, it was a nothing situation. That’s a press ball, in the half-space on the left-hand side, and in the end, I think it was through the legs of Dejan, I don't know exactly how it was. That's not, in the end, perfectly defended but I have to see it again. It's, of course, concentration, it's nothing else in this situation."

The Merseysiders, undone at the back, elevated themselves offensively. Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Alberto Moreno did not allow the Spanish outfit respite, slicing them down the flanks and centrally.

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The question was never if Liverpool would respond in the first 45 minutes, it just a matter of when and by how many. They could have easily had four goals, with the Brazilian starting the onslaught by finishing off a quick, incisive combo between Jordan Henderson and Moreno.

While that stanza of play showcased speed with purpose - one of Liverpool’s fundamental tenets, the second beyond Sevilla goalkeeper Sergio Rico was a display of another - tirelessness.

The Reds ceded possession after fine work around the box, but a determined Salah darted back to rob Steven N'Zonzi, before firing off a shot that deflected in after hitting Simon Kjaer.

Moments later, Nico Pareja's illegal persistence in trying to thwart Mane from getting a third resulted in a penalty, but while Firmino sent Rico the wrong way, his effort cannoned off the post.

Can and Moreno - the left-back sensational against his former club - both had further opportunities to inflate the scoreline, but the German’s shot went narrowly wide, while the latter forced a save.

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In the second half, Liverpool continued to probe, pull apart and pester Sevilla without finding that “decisive 10 per cent” - to borrow a Klopp term.

With 72 minutes played, Escudero’s quick throw-in from the left seemed to surprise the Reds and Luis Muriel supplied Correa, who opened his body and curled powerfully into the top right.

The most shocking element of it all was just how normal it was to see Liverpool swing from such dominance to such deflation.

Following that equaliser, Philippe Coutinho made his first appearance of the season to a warm welcome from the crowd, who parked their frustration at his push to join Barcelona this summer. 

He could not magically erase the fact that not enough was done by his team-mates when they ensured the match was played on their terms.

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"If we shoot that often and don’t score then probably it is a problem, but I don’t think it will be like this," admitted Klopp. 

"In a game like this, usually you score more often than we did tonight, so nobody should rely on this that we try that often and don’t score.

"The most important thing in football is creating chances and we did that in different situations. Could we have scored? Yes, but we didn’t.

"We know we have to improve on this, but it’s not an illness that you can change it."

On the conceding of soft goals, Klopp added: "If these problems would have been sorted with one player, you could imagine we would put all our money in and say, 'Come on, let's do this'. It's not about this, it's kind of this being dominant and losing a little bit the grip on the game.

"That's all space for improvement for all of us. We need to learn to be dominant and not to give easy goals away and the first one was, for sure, not necessary and too easy.

"The second, I have absolutely no clue how they came through that, to be honest, I have to see that again. It's not a general defending problem but we have to improve, 100 per cent."

Liverpool’s greatest competitor on Wednesday night had been themselves - Sevilla didn’t need to be anywhere close to their highest level to leave with a draw and it is these kind of scenarios that will strangle their European ambitions.