LONDON: Liverpool turned the page on defeat in May’s Champions League final and showed whey they are even stronger candidates to win a sixth European Cup this season as they launched their campaign in style against Paris Saint-Germain.
The home side left it late to seal the win at Anfield on Tuesday, with Brazil’s Roberto Firmino coming off the bench to edge a five-goal thriller 3-2 in stoppage time.
But the scoreline did not reflect the gap in quality between Jurgen Klopp’s well-honed unit and a PSG side that still looks like a collection of star individuals.
PSG fielded a £400 million ($525 million) frontline of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edison Cavani, but once again on a Champions League night away from the French capital the visitors wilted.
“Football still has the capacity to make the richest of men seem very foolish if they pursue glamour at the expense of substance,” was the verdict of Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
Despite their shortcomings, the sheer amount of individual star quality should still ensure PSG have enough to see off Napoli and Red Star Belgrade to make the last 16.
Even though he was kept quiet for almost the entire 90 minutes, Mbappe seized the one big chance that came his way to make it 2-2 seven minutes from time.
But on this evidence, only one team from Group C look like serious contenders to end Real Madrid’s dominance of the Champions League in the Spanish capital next June.
“It’s true we expect a lot from our front three and perhaps today it was tough for them. We have to improve all over the field,” admitted PSG boss Thomas Tuchel.
“Maybe we need to improve our intensity in games like this but it is early days in the Champions League and there is time to improve.”
Much has been made of Liverpool’s own significant strengthening in the transfer market to turn the progress made under Klopp into trophies.
Yet, other than goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who did not make a save of note, Klopp included no summer signings in his starting line-up.
Liverpool rode the firepower of their own fantastic front three of Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to reach the final last season.
FIRMINO GOOD ENOUGH WITH ONE EYE
Sadio Mane said he had urged Liverpool match-winner Roberto Firmino to declare himself fit for the Champions League opener against Paris Saint-Germain, insisting he didn’t “need his eye to play”.
Firmino sustained an abrasion to the cornea in his left eye in the weekend win at Tottenham after a clash with Jan Vertonghen and did not train on Sunday or Monday.
Even manager Jurgen Klopp admitted he thought the 26-year-old had “no chance” of playing when he saw him on Monday, but Mane was not prepared to give up on his teammate.
“I think Bobby doesn’t need his eye to play so I told him,” said Senegal international Mane after the thrilling 3-2 win over PSG at Anfield.
“I sent him a message on Monday saying, ‘Hey Bobby, come on, we need you’.
“You’ve all seen the ‘no look’ goals so I think he doesn’t need his eye to play. I texted him saying, ‘You don’t need your eye’.”
Klopp put Firmino on the bench but brought him on with about 20 minutes to go and he scored the added-time winner to extend Liverpool’s 100 per cent record to six matches.
“It’s a great start. It is too early to speak about anything, but it is very important for us to focus more because we are Liverpool, we are a stronger team, and we will try to do our best every game,” said Mane.