Mohamed Salah’s late goal gave Liverpool the lead before Darwin Nunez’s stoppage-time sealer secured a 2-0 win over Napoli to give Jurgen Klopp victory in his 400th game in charge, ending the visitors’ unbeaten start to the campaign.
Both sides were already assured of a place in the knockout stages of the competition, with only a four-goal winning margin enough to see Liverpool usurp Napoli in top spot.
The Reds managed two late strikes courtesy of Salah and Nunez, with Salah scrambling one over the line in the 85th minute after Alex Meret just about kept out substitute Nunez’s header.
Nunez added a second from the final act of the match as Napoli, who earlier had a Leo Ostigard effort ruled out for offside, saw their unbeaten run ended at 17 matches – though still finished as Group A top dogs.
Neither team could really find any rhythm in a quiet first half that took half an hour for the first shot on target to arrive, with Tanguy Ndombele forcing a save out of Alisson.
Liverpool attacked up the other end and only an Meret stop prevented Thiago Alcantara from opening the scoring, shortly before Curtis Jones headed just over the crossbar.
Ostigard guided Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s free-kick delivery past Alisson eight minutes into the second period, but VAR – after a three-minute wait – ruled the defender was offside.
Kvaratskhelia then had a powerful volley saved by Alisson as Napoli, who had won their previous five group outings with a competition-high 20 goals, pushed for a winner.
A winner did arrive, albeit at the other end as Meret prevented Nunez’s header from crossing the line, but Salah was there on the follow-up to poke over the line.
Nunez, introduced in the 73rd minute, added further gloss to the scoreline when tapping in a saved Virgil van Dijk header from under the bar.
What does it mean? Victory for Klopp on milestone occasion
Liverpool did not win by the four-goal margin required, which was never likely against in-form Napoli, meaning they will be unseeded in Monday’s draw for the last 16.
But the Reds at least manage to put Saturday’s league loss to Leeds United behind them with a narrow, if arguably slightly undeserved, victory in Klopp’s 400th match in charge.
It was also the German’s 100th Champions League game in his career, making him the seventh manager to reach that figure.
Darwin’s chaotic cameo
Nunez has gained a reputation of being an ‘agent of chaos’ because of his erratic playing style, and so that proved in his 20 minutes or so on the field against Napoli.
He played a big part in the opening goal and then added a late second, albeit after a nervy VAR check, for what was his third Liverpool goal in the Champions League.
Spalletti’s side thwarted
Napoli had won 13 games in a row entering this match, including five from five in the Champions League with 20 goals scored – four short of Bayern Munich’s all-time record.
The Serie A leaders managed just two shots on target and accumulated an expected goals (xG) value of 0.43, with this going down as an off-day for Luciano Spalletti’s talented side.
Liverpool will look to reignite their Premier League campaign when they travel to Tottenham on Sunday, while Serie A leaders Napoli head to second-place Atalanta on Saturday.
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