With a defeat in November, Liverpool’s December just got a whole lot trickier.
The Reds’ perfect start to their Champions League campaign is over, ended at the hands of Atalanta at Anfield.
Revenge was sweet for the Italians. Beaten 5-0 in Bergamo three weeks ago, Gian Piero Gasperini’s side got their own back on Merseyside, inflicting a 2-0 defeat which keeps Group D wide open, for now at least.
Victory here would have seen Jurgen Klopp’s men through to the knockout stages with two games to spare. Instead, with Ajax beating Midtjylland in Amsterdam, Liverpool now need a result when the Eredivisie side visit next week to guarantee qualification.
A defeat would leave them vulnerable, needing something from their final group match, as they have in each of the last three campaigns.
It means Klopp, his resources already stretched by injury, will have less room to comfortably rotate his squad during the busiest month of the campaign.
Liverpool play 10 times between November 28 and January 2, and as it stands none of those games will be free hits for the Premier League champions.
Klopp chose to make changes here. Five of them, in fact, from Sunday’s impressive win over Leicester City.
The result, though, was a disjointed performance which got what it deserved. Liverpool were second best for large parts, created little offensively and eventually succumbed to two goals in four second-half minutes, courtesy of Josip Ilicic and Robin Gosens.
Klopp cut a frustrated figure on the touchline, unhappy with most of what he saw.
Tsimikas, making only his second competitive appearance, got plenty of earache, as did Origi, whose form continues to underwhelm. The Belgian is doing little to push for greater inclusion, at present.
It took 43 minutes for Liverpool to muster even a shot, and when it came Salah blasted it well off target. The home side struggled to string any moves of note together, their rhythm lacking against a team that clearly learned their lessons from the first game.
Liverpool had looked to change the game off the bench in the final half hour, but as Klopp readied four substitutes – Andy Robertson, Fabinho, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino – Atalanta struck.
Ilicic and Papu Gomez had been the main threats for the Italians, and it was they who combined, with Gomez’s cross slid home by the Slovenia star at the far post, with the Reds backline sleeping.
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