Liverpool 2 Sevilla 2
Liverpool returned to the Champions League with a performance that gave credence to what the Premier League has long suspected. Jürgen Klopp has constructed an exhilarating attacking force on suspect foundations. Weak defending came to the fore once again as Sevilla thwarted Liverpool’s ambitions at Anfield.
Klopp's team dominated for long spells but a dreadful error from Dejan Lovren and a collective failing that allowed Joaquín Correa to equalise late on undermined their impressive efforts in the final third.
It could have been worse for Klopp's side had Luis Muriel not wasted a gilt-edged chance in the final minute before Joe Gomez was sent off for a second bookable offence on the outstanding Correa. Klopp was embroiled in a touchline row with Sevilla coaches after the final whistle but his ire should have been reserved for his rearguard.
Sevilla stalled Liverpool’s Champions League return by one season and Klopp’s side were intent on making up for lost time as they started with the same intensity that floored Hoffenheim in the playoff here three weeks earlier. For all the changes in the Andalusian team and dug-out since defeating Liverpool in the 2016 Europa League final, however, they remain a team with genuine European pedigree. Having weathered the initial storm Eduardo Berizzo’s visitors took the lead from their first meaningful attack. It was to Liverpool’s immense credit how they wrestled back the initiative before the interval and ignored their own part in Sevilla’s opener in the process.
Correa, Sevilla's left-sided forward, posed a threat every time he took possession but could have been stopped at source had Emre Can won a challenge deep inside the Liverpool half. The Germany midfielder lost out, enabling Sevilla to exchange a series of slick passes before Correa released the overlapping Sergio Escudero on the left. Liverpool should still have dealt with the danger only for Lovren to suffer a serious lapse in concentration as Escudero crossed low into the six-yard box, missing his clearance completely and granting Wissam Ben Yedder the freedom to convert unmarked at the back post.
Lovren’s error was indefensible but there was no faulting the Liverpool response. Pouring forward in numbers, with Sadio Mané causing all manner of problems by roving both deep and central, the hosts dominated the remainder of the first half and were well worth a lead that should have been more comfortable by the break.
Can almost restored parity immediately with a shot that deflected off Simon Kjaer and rolled inches wide of a post. Goalkeeper Sergio Rico saved superbly from Mane after Salah had cut the ball back invitingly while Roberto Firmino headed narrowly over from a Jordan Henderson corner.
A Liverpool equaliser seemed inevitable and it arrived courtesy of one of the flowing team moves that Klopp cherishes. Georginio Wijnaldum spun away from his marker on the right and, though there were groans when Henderson squared to the excellent Alberto Moreno the first time, there were no complaints when the Liverpool captain delivered his second pass perfectly into the path of the former Sevilla left back as he raced to the by-line. Moreno crossed between Rico and the first defender for Firmino to side-foot home from close range.
Controversy surrounded Liverpool's second when Salah appeared to clip Steven N'Zonzi and regain possession of the ball in one movement 25 yards from the Sevilla goal. Referee Danny Makkelie put his whistle to his lips but elected to play on, much to the visitors' fury as Salah let fly from distance and his shot looped over the stranded Rico off the boot of defender Simon Kjaer.
Berizzo's team should have been further behind moments before the break when captain Nicolas Pareja handled inside his own area and hauled Mané to the ground to concede a clear penalty. Firmino sent Rico the wrong way but his spot-kick bounced off the post.
Liverpool continued to dominate the ball in the second half, stifling Sevilla and fuelling frustration in the visiting ranks. Berizzo was sent to the stands when, having been warned for a similar transgression, he stupidly threw the ball away from Gomez as the Liverpool defender attempted to take a throw-in. He therefore had a better view when the outstanding Correa brought Sevilla level as the home defence was breached far too easily once again.
The visitors' equaliser stemmed from a throw-in to substitute Muriel who, unmarked, sent Correa through the centre of a static Liverpool defence. The Argentina international lifted a cool finish over the advancing Loris Karius and, despite the return of Philippe Coutinho, given a rousing reception when he replaced Can with 14 minutes left, Liverpool were left to rue familiar failings.