Champions League recap: Liverpool's energetic return ends in disappointment

Henry Bushnell
(EFE)

Liverpool Football Club has been a fixture in the Champions League and European Cup almost throughout the life of the competition. And after a painful absence in recent years, save for a group-stage exit in 2014, the Reds seemed to be well on their way to a triumphant return Wednesday.

The first proper European night at Anfield in almost three years brought incessant noise. It brought fervent pressing and intensity. It brought some brilliant soccer too. A goal to the good late in the first half, Liverpool was buzzing. Up 2-1, it furiously hunted for a third.

But at the conclusion of the 90 minutes, it was left to rue a couple of costly first-half moments. The first was Dejan Lovren’s wild swing and miss at a relatively tame cross in his own six-yard box:


Despite Sevilla’s early lead, Jurgen Klopp’s side played a barnstorming opening half. It was a vintage Klopp performance. The Reds flew at Sevilla players from all angles.

They full deserved their equalizer – a Roberto Firmino tap-in after Alberto Moreno and Jordan Henderson combined on the left side of the penalty area – and their sizable slice of luck 16 minutes later. Mo Salah’s strike perhaps followed a foul, then took a nasty, looping deflection over a helpless Sergio Rico:


Liverpool would have been good value for a two- or three-goal lead, and looked set to double its advantage when Sadio Mane won a late first-half penalty. But Firmino clanged his side-footed shot off the outside of the post, and somehow Sevilla snuck into its dressing room at 2-1.

Liverpool’s pace slowed after the break, as it often does after such a rambunctious period of play. Anfield grew slightly antsy. And then it was stunned by talented Sevilla youngster Joaquin Correa:


Philippe Coutinho made his 2017-18 debut with 15 minutes remaining, but the hosts lacked the verve and cutting edge they brought to the first half. Sevilla had a chance or two late on to pilfer all three points, but the Spanish side will be happy to come away from Anfield with one.

Liverpool will be happy to be back in the Champions League after the brief absence. The storied English club hasn’t played a knockout round match in the competition this decade, and it should still be poised to end the drought.

But after an irresistible first 45 minutes, Liverpool couldn’t quite sustain itself for a second 45. Whatever the prevailing sentiment, it was tinged with disappointment.

Tottenham snap Wembley skid

Narratives of Tottenham’s Wembley struggles were always somewhat silly. Thank goodness that Spurs finally found the time to put them to bed. Three well-taken goals gave the Premier League runners-up a 3-1 victory over Dortmund marred only by Jan Vertonghen’s late red card.

Heung-Min Son put Tottenham in front early on by exposing Dortmund keeper Roman Burki at his near post:


Andriy Yarmolenko scored a doozy of a debut goal for Dortmund to level the match less than 10 minutes later, but Kane quickly replied with a left-footed strike eerily similar to Son’s. He then completed a fabulous European night with another weak-foot goal.

Dortmund fans will dispute two disallowed goals, the first very debatable, the second clearly an incorrect decision. But their complaints won’t infringe upon Tottenham’s joy. And they won’t cloud Tottenham’s clear leg up in a difficult group that also features Real Madrid.

For more on Tottenham 3, Borussia Dortmund 1, here’s our Leander Schaerlaeckens on a cunning Spurs performance.

Man City dispatches Feyenoord

England’s five Champions League participants claimed a total of 13 points on the opening matchday amid discussion of whether the group could end England’s Champions League funk. Man City completed the first round of fixtures in style.

While Liverpool and Tottenham faced stern tests, City’s 4-0 victory over Feyenoord belonged on Tuesday, when Europe’s elite trounced middle-class opposition. The game was done and dusted by halftime. John Stones put City in front within two minutes, and completed his brace an hour later. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus also tallied.

The victory gave City an early advantage on Group F’s second-favorite, Napoli, who was beaten 2-1 by Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine.

Real Madrid keeps pace with fellow favorites

Cristiano Ronaldo – still suspended for league matches, but free to run rampant in Europe – casually carried Real Madrid to a 3-0 win over APOEL Nicosia. He notched two goals, the first of which was made possible by Gareth Bale’s precise cross:


Madrid’s victory matched the three-goal margins of Barcelona and Manchester United a day earlier, and the comfort of it was a welcome reprieve from recent La Liga wobbles.

Other scores

NK Maribor 1-1 Spartak Moscow
RB Leipzig 1-1 Monaco
Porto 1-3 Besiktas

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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.