Late Napoli brace sinks Liverpool as Barkley penalty drama costs Chelsea

Late goals from Dries Mertens and Fernando Llorente earned Napoli a 2-0 victory as Liverpool made a slow start to their Champions League defence.

For the second season in a row, Jurgen Klopp’s side were beaten in the group stage in Naples – they lost 1-0 last October – and it was more sloppy defending which saw the Group E game slip away from them in the final minutes.

The Reds had defended stoutly against some sustained pressure from the home side, but were unlucky to be punished when Jose Callejon skipped inside of Andy Robertson before making the most of minimal contact with the Liverpool defender and, when a VAR review failed to give the visitors a reprieve, Dries Mertens took full advantage to beat Adrian from the spot.

“For me it’s clear and obvious, no penalty, because Callejon jumps before he has any contact,” an unhappy Jurgen Klopp complained after the game.

As Liverpool pushed for a late equaliser, Fernando Llorente doubled the lead during added-on time after a rare Virgil van Dijk mistake, profiting when the defender’s mis-hit pass ran into his path and he slotted the ball home to spark wild celebrations on the home bench.

Victory was sealed – and the reigning champions of Europe had been beaten in the first game of their defence for the first time since AC Milan in 1994.

Liverpool were hoping for better than their limp showing at the Stadio San Paolo last season, but found themselves caught out on the break early on when, as they would have feared, Lorenzo Insigne found space in behind Trent Alexander-Arnold. But from his pull-back Fabian twice pulled simple saves out of Adrian from a good position.

Liverpool responded when Jordan Henderson’s lob found Sadio Mane unmarked on the edge of the box, but his heavy touch took him wide of Alex Meret’s post and, from a tight angle, it was simple enough for the goalkeeper to turn his effort round the post with his legs.

Meanwhile, Ross Barkley missed a late VAR-awarded penalty as Frank Lampard lost 1-0 to Valencia on his Champions League debut as Chelsea manager.

Chelsea had the chance to cancel out Rodrigo’s 74th-minute opener and salvage a point when the Video Assistant Referee alerted the on-field official to Daniel Wass’ handball in the area with three minutes remaining.

Barkley insisted he should take the spot-kick, snatching the ball off regular penalty taker Jorginho, but his effort cannoned off the top of the crossbar.

The late penalty controversy compounded a harsh introduction to Champions League football for Lampard, who lost Mason Mount to injury just 16 minutes and still awaits the first home victory of his tenure at Chelsea.

Valencia players and fans supposedly arrived in London in disarray following the sacking of manager Marcelino last week, but they were united as they produced a classy display against Lampard’s youthful side which featured four competition debutants.

Tammy Abraham, fresh from his hat-trick at Wolves, was denied a maiden Champions League goal when his near-post flick was blocked by Valencia goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen.

Mason Mount then received a painful introduction to European football when former Arsenal midfielder Frances Coquelin left his studs on the inside of his shin with a challenge that yielded only a yellow card, despite forcing the youngster off inside 16 minutes.

Willian was Chelsea’s biggest threat in the first half and nearly scored a sensational opener when he brought a cross down on his chest and flashed a first-time effort inches over.

Marcos Alonso took the game to Valencia early in the second half, drilling in a free-kick under the visitors’ poor excuse for a wall which Cillessen tipped behind for a corner, from which the left-back headed over at the near post.

But with 16 minutes remaining, Valencia struck with their first effort on target when Rodrigo gave the Chelsea defence the slip, raced into acres of space in the Chelsea area and drilled a shot into the group that flew past Kepa Arrizabalaga into the top corner.

Chelsea’s players appealed for a handball with five minutes remaining in a dramatic finale, as replays showed Fikayo Tomori’s header was blocked by the hand of Valencia defender Wass.

After a lengthy VAR review, a penalty was awarded but Barkley, on as a substitute just seven minutes prior, took responsibility into his own hands only to crash his effort against the bar and over. – Sky Sports.

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