Liverpool succumbed to a 2-1 loss to Paris Saint-Germain in a star-studded night at the Parc de Princes. Juan Bernat and Neymar gave the Parisians a 2-0 lead by the 37th minute only for James Milner to pull one back for Liverpool from the penalty spot in the 45th minute after a foul by Angel di Maria.
There were more yellow cards in the match than food discount coupons you would find every day in your email through the course of a day. And there was the kind of playacting exhibited that makes rival fans grate their molars.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had this to say in the post-match conference: "There are a lot of things you can do when you’re a referee. For instance, you can give yellow cards for almost everything. But how about when you go down, you act like you are about to die and then the next moment you get up? It's unsportsmanlike behaviour. In the end, it's hectic and then everyone is going down. I don't want to say Paris didn't deserve and I don't expect help from a ref, I just expect him to know better. It doesn't happen that often, to be honest, but it happened tonight.
"Two times in a row we won the fair play award in England and tonight PSG made us look like butchers. It was clever of PSG, especially Neymar and that made us lose our composure."
Mick Jagger, the frontman of The Rolling Stone was in attendance. On the pitch, Liverpool couldn't get no satisfaction. "This game has more wrinkles and fouls," Mick Jagger would have thought, "than Keith's (Richards) crumply mouth." Leonardo DiCaprio was present too, but it was Neymar who played the role of the versatile antagonist better among the two in recent memory.
Neymar is staking claim to Cristiano Ronaldo's title of football's most talented but disliked player. There is duality in his acting.
In the first half, he took on the role of a gilded dove, with a note laced to his left foot, swooshing through Liverpool as if they were merely poles, wires and chimney smoke. His heels sprouted the invisible wings of Hermes, and he was rarely stopped until he dispatched his message in the form of a shot on target or a telling pass. Whenever PSG desired to showcase their qualities, it was through Neymar that they communicated. For the first 30 minutes of the first half, Liverpool couldn't get a word in.
The first goal came from a botched Virgil van Dijk clearance (no, really). The ball crossed in from Kylian Mbappe was hacked to PSG left-back Bernat by the usually immaculate Liverpool defender. Bernat shimmied on his other foot and placed the ball past the right side of Liverpool goalkeeper, Alisson Becker.
The Liverpool midfield were made to look like a meeting in the House of Commons: the lines of midfield and defence, seated opposite, facing each other, delegating blame, waving fists and tut-tutting. And with a big, green aisle in between. Marco Verratti could have placed a red chequered blanket down, perfected crown napkin fold and laid out the plates for his picnicking PSG team-mates. He seemed like he had the time and space-time to do so, for sure.
Jordan Henderson looked like The-ghost-of-Joe-Cole-past: a huffing apparition. James Milner was used as a diving board. Gini Wijnaldum was strung around like a spinning top. Naby Keita completed more dribbles after coming on in the last 20 minutes of the game than Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum managed in the entire match.
In defence, Liverpool's most creative defender, left-back Andrew Robertson showed the balance of a man trying to run whilst wearing a straight-jacket (or how it could probably look like).
You know how Wile E Coyote looks at the camera when he realises there no ground beneath him? Yeah, that was the expression Roberto Firmino wore for most of the night until he was mercifully subbed off for Daniel Sturridge. Sadio Mane's performance was credible. Mo Salah continues to suffer from a lack of self-belief. Alisson Becker was Liverpool's best player and that's really all one needs to know about the Liverpool performance. It could have been 5-1 to PSG on the night if the bearded Brazilian didn't (figuratively) stick his chin out.
The second goal too was instigated by Neymar. A Edinson Cavani shot saved by Alisson fell kindly to an onrushing Neymar, who tapped it into the net. Everytime Neymar grins that smug, malandro grin, angels fall to the earth and die. It's borderline dastardly.
In the second half, PSG were at their petulant best. In the centre of that synchronised diving team was Neymar; naturally.
Doing their best impression of the touch-sensitive plant mimosa pudica, the entire PSG seem to wilt and require medical attention upon the slightest of Liverpool challenges. The PSG physio perhaps ran more miles than Neymar in the second period. "Even Joe Gomez got a yellow card," Jurgen Klopp exasperated, "he's the nicest boy on this planet and he was close to getting a red."
The referee was overawed by the occasion and played a part in a litany of bad calls.
This was Neymar's most telling performance in Europe since the 6-1 match versus PSG in 2017 when he was still very much the Barcelona heir to Lionel Messi's crown. And there have been few and far between since his move to Paris.
Neymar has been periodically accused with a lack of steel. In the reverse fixture vs Liverpool at Anfield, Neymar shrugged away his defensive responsibilities, which allowed the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to exploit the spaces Neymar left behind.
In this match, during the last third of the match, Neymar was seen going shoulder to shoulder with James Milner.
On the night, Liverpool were guilty of two offences: Setting out with a defensive overkill of Wijnaldum, Henderson and Milner. This provided no forward movement nor momentum. The second mistake was to underestimate Neymar.
Liverpool now have all to do at Anfield on 11 December vs Carlo Ancelotti's Napoli. They need to win by a margin of more than one goal to be safe of qualification. When the draw came out, Liverpool were expected to top group C. If they don't manage to do that, they will have only themselves and away form to blame.
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Updated Date: Nov 29, 2018 14:19:13 IST