As the man said: soccer’s a funny old game. Sevilla, who looked inferior to Liverpool throughout much of the first leg Champions League Group Stage game at Anfield on Wednesday evening, managed to pull off a 2-2 draw that at the end of 90 tense minutes felt more like a victory, surviving thanks to their impressive efficiency, upping their game in the second half and Liverpool’s decision to keep pressing the Spanish side, opening up their vulnerable defense to a last-minute counterattack.
Liverpool were the better attacking force for the majority, but Sevilla the smarter side
Sevilla got off to a flying start when Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren got it seriously wrong in the goal area five minutes into the first half, allowing Ben Yedder to take advantage. But the Spaniards then seemed to succumb to the pressure of being a goal up so early, and were faced with wave after wave of attacks from Liverpool, who were cheered on by a capacity crowd. For much of the next 40 minutes coach Eduardo Berizzo could only watch as his players were outrun by Salah, Mané and a sensational Alberto Moreno.
Liverpool literally took possession of the game, keeping control over play. Sadio Mane tested visiting goalkeeper Sergio Rico with a low drive as Liverpool fought to level the score, managing this when Roberto Firmino finished off a fine team move from close range to equalize in the 21st minute.
The second Liverpool goal was lucky, with Salah retrieving possession from Steven N’Zonzi, who was named man of the match, benefiting from a deflection off defender Simon Kjaer, sending goalkeeper Sergio Rico the wrong way.
The five-time European champions continued to push forward, pressuring Sevilla’s defense until it cracked: Nicolas Pareja conceded a penalty by first trying to dispossess Mane by handling the ball, and when that failed, he wrapped a hand around the winger’s waist. But Firmino, presented with the chance to give the home side breathing space three minutes before half time, instead struck his penalty against the post.
Sevilla coach Berizzo was also dismissed earlier in the evening for throwing the ball away when it went out of play
In the second half, Liverpool kept up the pressure, Georginio Wijnaldum came close with a low drive, but with 18 minutes to go the defense switched off and Joaquín Correa nipped in to equalize with only Sevilla’s second shot on target.
Luis Muriel could have won it for Sevilla in injury time, but shot wide from inside the box, before Reds defender Joe Gomez was dismissed for a second bookable offense.
Sevilla coach Berizzo was also dismissed earlier in the evening for throwing the ball away when it went out of play.
Midfielder Philippe Coutinho, who requested a transfer in the summer, made his first appearance of the season for Liverpool, coming on for Emre Can on 75 minutes.
Liverpool were the better attacking force for the majority, but Sevilla the smarter side: Liverpool finished with 24 attempts on goal, seven on target and just the two goals to show for it. Sevilla managed just two on target and scored them both.
English version by Nick Lyne.