Liverpool’s dreadful, shock loss

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was not impressed.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was not impressed.

WHEN the biggest club in Serbia takes part in European football matches, the toughest battles are on the terraces rather than out on the pitch.

Yet while the club's fans once again maintained their idiotic reputation by causing trouble with the local police, it was their team - normally poor against half-decent teams - packed a decent punch.

And that was enough to capitalise on a dreadful, shambolic performance which led to a deserved defeat for Liverpool.

Red Star, yet to win in the Champions League, may have been worthy winners but they are still not particularly good.

A Liverpool victory would have been enough to put one foot in the knockout stages but with dropped points and PSG and Napoli to come, nothing is certain.

Particularly not if Liverpool play like this again in what was their worse performance of the season.

They may be unbeaten in the Premier League but Jurgen Klopp's team have now suffered three defeats elsewhere, against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup and away to both Napoli and here in the Serbian capital.

Red Star won the European Cup in 1991 and were playing in the main round of this competition for the first time since 1992.

Red Star Belgrade's Serbian forward Milan Pavkov celebrates
Red Star Belgrade's Serbian forward Milan Pavkov celebrates

Considering their Europa League record has been unimpressive, this was the club's best win since beating Marseille 27 years ago in the final.

Local hero of the night was Milan Pavkov scored twice in seven minutes, the first a header from a corner and the second an outstanding, powerful strike.

Yet there were a number of poor performances, including Adam Lallana who was making only his fifth appearance of the season while Daniel Sturridge - who missed a sitter before the first goal - was taken off at halftime.

There was certainly a spiky atmosphere in the stadium before the game and the fire brigade were parked at the side of the pitch - alongside an ambulance - with flares expected.

You can only imagine the bedlam had Xherdan Shaqiri featured.

Due to political reasons, the player did not travel - and Liverpool definitely made the right decision as there is a genuine chance the game could have got out of hand.

Red Star's Milan Pavkov, right, celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal. Picture: AP Photo
Red Star's Milan Pavkov, right, celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal. Picture: AP Photo

With Dejan Lovren suffering with an illness, Joel Matip made a surprise start - his first in the Champions League start since taking on Maribor over a year ago.

Roberto Firmino was given a rest on the bench so it meant only a fifth start to the season for Sturridge.

And the best chance of the game, by some distance, fell to Sturridge.

Despite having scored four times this season - while putting away more difficult chances than this - he sent an effort flying into the sky after some great work on the left by Sadio Mane and Andy Robertson.

Sturridge really should have scored.

And he was cursing that glorious opportunity a few minutes later as Red Star took the lead.

Liverpool forward Daniel Sturridge is surrounded by Red Star defenders. Picture: AP Photo
Liverpool forward Daniel Sturridge is surrounded by Red Star defenders. Picture: AP Photo

Liverpool keep Alisson did well to push round a decent shot from Ben Nabouhane but from the resulting corner, Marin's cross was headed powerfully into the net by Pavkov with Alisson static on his line.

As you can image, the celebrations here among the fans were absolutely ridiculous, but the scenes got even crazier just seven minutes later when they stunned Liverpool again.

James Milner, arguably the team's best player this season, was guilty of losing possession to Marin.

Pavkov, 24, had too much power for Gini Wijnaldum and was then able to set himself for a long-range effort which he smashed into the corner.

Liverpool were pedestrian and lacking energy.

So it was not a surprise that at the break, there was a double change as Firmino replaced Sturridge and Joe Gomez came on for Trent Alexander-Arnold - but not much changed.

Sane should have pulled one back soon after the break but the ball appeared to get stuck under his boot, Salah had a couple of efforts pushed away

But Red Star defended like lions, Liverpool looked toothless and the visitors got exactly what they deserved. Nothing.


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