It appeared as though the game was as good as won. Sevilla looked like a deer in the highlights and Liverpool looked threatening every time they ventured forward.
The roles were reversed in the second half. Sevilla came out looking to prove a point and restore some pride. They did more than they. A stoppage time Guido Pizarro goal completed a remarkable comeback as the home side scored three without reply to salvage a point.
Rightly or wrongly, fingers will be pointed, Klopp will be criticised and players will be destroyed on social media. Liverpool could’ve assured progression into the knockout stage of the Champions League and sailed through as group leaders. had they managed the game properly in the second half.
We’ve taken a look at five things we learned from the 3-3 draw in Spain.
Defensive frailties undo their potent attack
Liverpool’s defensive issues have plagued them for a number of years. Klopp’s been unable to find a perfect balance but at times it appears as though he’s managed to stem the bleeding. For example, they’ve kept three clean sheets in their last four matches.
However, Sevilla exposed the Reds in the second half and it made for uncomfortable viewing. They scored two quickfire goals to bring the tie back to life and the Liverpool players looked like a boxer using the ropes to prop himself up. The knockout blow seemed to be inevitable, it was just when and not if.
People will blame individual mistakes, specifically those of Alberto Moreno but the bigger picture needs addressing. It was a systemic failure while also highlighting the fact Liverpool lack a particular type of player.
Moreno’s mistakes were obvious but Sadio Mané not tracking back to help his full-back will be overlooked. The home side took advantage of a clearly emotional Moreno who was returning home to his boyhood club for the first time since 2014. It was a recipe for disaster and Klopp eventually replaced the full-back with James Milner.
Another glaringly obvious issue was the lack of leadership shown by those in red. Klopp’s men needed someone to get their foot on the ball and calm things down at 3-1. Maybe even have a word with Mané and tell him to drop to support Moreno. There was none of that. Instead it was just carnage with players shrinking when the spotlight was on them.
Liverpool need players who can handle high pressure situations.
Jordan Henderson also failed to win a single tackle against Sevilla.
— ReviewFootball (@ReviewFootball) November 21, 2017
Liverpool are a counter attacking team
The Reds put on a counter attacking clinic in the first-half to show exactly what they’re capable of when they’re given space. Though Klopp has looked to shape them into more of a possession based side during his time on Merseyside, there’s no escaping the fact they excel when they see less of the ball.
The likes of Philippe Coutinho, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Mané all come to life when there’s space to exploit and you got to see exactly why during the blitz in the opening 45 minutes. Liverpool went in 3-0 ahead but it could have been four or five had the finishing been a little better.
The Sevilla defence couldn’t cope with the pace and were often left chasing shadows or scrambling to make up ground after a quick turnover of possession.
The challenge for Klopp is to work it so his team are able to hit teams on the break all of the time and not just when the opposition are looking to dominate the ball.
Gomez gives Liverpool flexibility
The recent England debutant is priceless to Liverpool. It’s rare to find a centre-back who is so comfortable playing as a full-back, especially in such an attacking system. But Joe Gomez’s versatility means Klopp is able to effectively play a number of systems without making any changes.
When defending Liverpool can operate in a 4-3-3 formation but when they’re attacking that morphs into somewhat of a 3-3-4 and it’s all because of Gomez. The 20-year-old basically plays three positions, drifting between right-back; right sided centre-back and at times almost as a defensive midfielder.
The transition between the different roles in the many systems is seamless and it’s been giving Liverpool the edge in recent weeks. You’d be hard pressed to find centre-backs athletic enough to play as a full-back and full-backs disciplined enough to play as a centre-back.
Gomez wasn’t at his best in Spain but you could see, especially in the first half, the benefit his inclusion has on the shape of the team.
Klopp’s tactical naivety
There’s been a lot of praise for Klopp over recent weeks due to the tweaks he’s made to the Liverpool system. After the loss to Tottenham Hotspur he shored up the defence and they’ve conceded just the one goal in four games before the trip to Sevilla.
He looked to get Salah more involved centrally and at times it was almost as though Liverpool had two strikers with Firmino partnering the former Roma man. Everything he’s looked to do has worked.
But tonight he got it wrong. It’s not the first time it’s happened and it won’t be the last. The worrying thing, however, was the fact fans of the Merseyside club have witnessed this before. They’ve seen matches they should have under control creeping away from them.
Wins have turned into draws and at times losses. Klopp, praised for his innovative thinking, is sometimes too loyal to his players. Instead of being proactive when the game starts to go against his side he trusts his players to stem the tide. It’s misplaced trust though as yet again he reacted ten minutes too late.
At 3-1 he should have replaced Alberto Moreno, who was having his worst game of the season and was already on a booking, and Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian wasn’t having a bad game but the Reds needed bodies in midfield to just kill the momentum. He made the changes at 3-2 when Sevilla had the bit between their teeth and 30 minutes to find an equaliser.
Karius could oust Simon Mignolet
Amongst the chaos defensively there was one shining light for Liverpool and it was the performance of Loris Karius between the sticks. The German keeper could find himself as a starter in the Premier League in the near future after a solid showing despite the fact he conceded three goals.
The former Mainz man pulled off a superb saved at 1-0, tipped an effort to the post to show great reflexes. He commanded his box well, coming to clear a cross into the area to relieve the pressure on his defence and in the process cleaned a Sevilla player out.
He also made a stunning stop just as it looked as though the home side had equalised. The referee pulled play back but Karius wasn’t to know at the time as the ball ricocheted off of him and onto the crossbar.
He was authoritative and composed but of course the scoreline won’t reflect this. However, he’s one of the few players who can return back to Merseyside with his head held high.