Liverpool capitulate as Sevilla pull off incredible comeback
Visitors were 3-0 up and coasting before Sevilla mounted late comeback
Guido Pizarro of Sevilla celebrates with team mates and staff members after scoring his side’s third goal in their Champions League clash with Liverpool. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images
Sevilla 3 Liverpool 3
Liverpool owed Sevilla for defeat in the 2016 Europa League final according to Jürgen Klopp. Instead, they were transported back to Basel as another astonishing second-half recovery from his Spanish nemesis cancelled out a three-goal interval lead and denied Liverpool qualification for the knock-out phase of the Champions League.
Seven times Klopp has faced Sevilla as manager of Mainz, Borussia Dortmund and now Liverpool and he has yet to taste victory. He may never get a better opportunity. Liverpool were rampant, clinical and formidable in a first half that brought two goals for Roberto Firmino, one for Sadio Mané and looked certain to devastate Sevilla’s proud 12-month unbeaten home record. But the tables were turned dramatically after the interval and a equaliser three minutes into added time from Guido Pizarro ensured qualification will go to the final game for Liverpool.
Liverpool’s players had their heads in hands on the final whistle and with good reason. They had the home side well beaten after 45 minutes. By the time it was over it was they who were in despair.
The visitors were handed an added incentive before the game began. A stoppage-time equaliser for Maribor away at Spartak Moscow in the earlier kick-off meant they would not only qualify for the knock-out stage with victory over Sevilla but win the group outright with a match to spare. They seized the opportunity quickly and emphatically.
Ninety seconds had elapsed when Firmino punctured the defence and the fantastic atmosphere inside the stadium, a considerable feat in itself considering the noise level. The breakthrough came courtesy of a Philippe Coutinho corner on the right, won by the relentless Mané that Georginio Wijnaldum flicked on at the near post with two Sevilla players for company. The home side were equally sluggish at the back post and Firmino was unmarked as he steered a precise finish into the small gap between the goalkeeper, Sergio Rico, and the woodwork.
Sevilla started nervously. Even their own kick off caused problems. Once they regained composure on the ball, however, they showed what a good side they can be with several slick, impressive moves. The hosts could and should have turned a deficit into a lead with two glorious chances in the space of two minutes. The failure to convert either would be ruthlessly punished.
Nolito had the first opening when released behind the visiting defence by Éver Banega. The former Manchester City forward improved his prospects by cutting inside Joe Gomez’s despairing challenge but his right-foot shot was tipped on to the inside of the far post by Loris Karius. Simon Mignolet’s replacement in the Liverpool goal gratefully pounced on the rebound.
Karius was beaten seconds later when Wissam Ben Yedder was played through on goal with Alberto Moreno and Ragnar Klavan caught out of position. The striker’s shot lacked conviction from the moment it left his boot and trickled wide of the exposed goal.
Liverpool made Sevilla pay almost immediately with a replica of their opening goal. Rico conceded a corner with a save from Firmino after the Brazilian was sent clean through by an excellent ball from Jordan Henderson. His defenders had not learned their lesson. Coutinho swept over another inviting delivery, Firmino won the aerial challenge and, with Gabriel Mercado asleep at the back post, Mané reacted instinctively to steer a diving header back across goal and into the far corner.
Having gone almost exactly a year unbeaten on home soil, Sevilla were staring at humiliation in front of their disbelieving supporters when Liverpool scored a third with 30 minutes played. This time Mané was the provider as he sprinted on to a sumptuous long pass from Moreno over Johannes Geis and forced Rico into a low save to his left. The rebound fell perfectly for Firmino, who had time to control, look away and lash home into an empty net.
Sevilla have conceded 12 goals in 12 La Liga games this season, to put Liverpool’s attacking prowess into context, and their first-half evisceration could have been worse had Mohamed Salah taken another chance. Sevilla exited to a cauldron of disapproval at half-time but re-emerged like men possessed. Playing for pride, and no doubt stung by their coach’s words during the interval, they subjected Liverpool to another second-half ordeal and clawed the deficit back to one goal within 15 minutes.
Ben Yedder orchestrated the fightback as Moreno, similarly to the Europa League final, endured a fraught night against his boyhood club. A foul by the Liverpool left-back gifted Banega a free-kick in a dangerous position on the right. Ben Yedder ghosted across the visiting defence to steer a glancing header into the far corner and was then presented with a second from the penalty spot following another Moreno error.
The Spain international mis-controlled a Coutinho pass and compounded the mistake by clipping Ben Yedder inside the area as he attempted to make amends. It was only a faint touch by Moreno and the striker exaggerated contact, but contact was made. Ben Yedder sent Karius the wrong way but having been ordered to retake due to encroaching he sent him the other to set up a nervous finale.
Liverpool had several clear openings to restore their comfort late on but from substitute Joaquin Correa’s corner in injury time, that flicked off Klavan, Pizarro pounced from close range to bring an astonishing game to a fitting climax. – Guardian service