Disappointing Liverpool forced to wait for qualification after draw with Napoli
Champions League, Group E, Anfield – Liverpool 1 (Lovren 65’) Napoli 1 (Mertens 21’)
A rare goal from Dejan Lovren gave Liverpool a 1-1 draw at home to Napoli but the reigning European champions will need to avoid defeat away to Salzburg next month to secure qualification to the knockout stages.
The Reds welcomed back Mohamed Salah but were flat and below-par in the first half and were dealt an early blow with Fabinho forced off with a suspected ankle injury.
Carlo Ancelotti's side, who were winles in their last six games, put their internal strife behind them to take the lead courtesy of Dries Mertens beating the off-side trap and executing a fine strike from a tight angle.
The Italians, the only team to beat the Reds this season, continued to defend well led by Kalidou Koulibaly and restricted them to few chances, with the frustrations leading to Jurgen Klopp being booked.
Klopp's side upped the tempo in the second half with Firmino denied by Koulibaly's goal line clearance before the Brazilian headed wide from close range.
And their possession was rewarded by the most unlikeliest of goal scorers with Lovren heading in from a corner after he rose highest.
The visitors were clinging on in the final 20 minutes but defended well to come away with a point and keep their qualification hopes alive.
Liverpool top the group with 10 points, Napoli are on nine and Salzburg are on seven setting up a dramatic end to the group, similar to last season when the Reds beat the Italians to progress on their way to winning the trophy.
Is Liverpool's defending a concern?
The reigning European Cup winners were rock solid at the back last season but they only have two clean sheets this season.
And with Fabinho going off injured, Klopp may be concerned at the lack of protection in front of the defence for their hectic December schedule. The defending for Mertens' goal was ropey to say the least.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli): He made a sticky start with a slip when up against Salah, but he improved as the game went along and won every header. His positioning was also excellent in dealing with danger.
NAPOLI: Meret 5, Maksimovic 7, Manolas 8, Koulibaly 9, Mario Rui 6, Di Lorenzo 5, Allan 5, Zielinski 4, Fabian 4, Mertens 8, Lozano 5. Subs: Llorente 5, Elmas n/a, Younes n/a.
21' - GOAL FOR NAPOLI! Mertens hammers it into the bottom corner from a tight angle after beating the off-side trap.
45'+'4 - GOOD SAVE: Milner jinks past three players into the box and his drive at the near post is parried.
55' - OFF THE LINE! Merek spills Henderson's cross, Firmino hooks it towards goal but Koulibaily is there to clear off the line. He then heads away from a cornerm the Senegal man has improved as the game has gone on.
63' - GREAT CHANCE! Mane feeds it to the Ox whose cross to the back stick is headed wide by Firmino under pressure from Manolas.
65' - GOAL FOR LIVERPOOL! Liverpool have a corner and Lovren rises highest to heads it into the corner.
Carlo Ancelotti was the last manager to win an away Champions League match at Anfield against Liverpool, leading Real Madrid to a 3-0 win in October 2014.
Milner has 11 assists in the Champions League since the start of the 2017-18 campaign; no player has provided more.