Belgrade: Liverpool have played 200 matches in the European Cup and Champions League, but surely few in an atmosphere as wild as this or as meekly.
Jurgen Klopp’s team floundered in the face of a vibrant Red Star Belgrade display, and a home crowd to match, as their prospects of reaching the knockout phase were dealt a serious blow in the Serbian capital.
I do not say it is serious we lost two times but of course we have to make sure that it will not happen again, otherwise it will be difficult.
Two goals from the striker Milan Pavkov, the second a truly outstanding effort, delivered a famous victory for Vladan Milojevic’s team and Red Star’s first win in the competition — qualifiers excluded — since they were defending champions in 1992. “A different beast at home,” Andy Robertson had described them.
Liverpool’s left-back was not wrong. The worry for Klopp and company is that they have become a different proposition themselves away from Anfield in the Champions League this season. Paris St-Germain await next in France. Liverpool have left themselves little margin for error.
The Marakana’s reputation for passion, hostility and incessant noise was no exaggeration. It was a spectacular backdrop and its team responded in kind.
Klopp started without his most reliable forward in European competition, Roberto Firmino, who has been involved in more goals in the Champions League — 19 (12 goals and 7 assists) — than any other Liverpool player since the start of last season but has looked weary of late. Daniel Sturridge replaced the Brazilian but he failed to make the most of his chance.
Two first-half goals from Milan Pavkov did the damage and Liverpool are now tied with Napoli at the top of Group C on six points after four games, with matches against the Italian side and PSG to come.
“I think it made sense to make a few changes, a few we had to make and a few we wanted to,” said Klopp.
“I do not say it is serious we lost two times but of course we have to make sure that it will not happen again, otherwise it will be difficult, because the next game is already an away game again, and then a tough home game.
“The boys are very disappointed, I’m very disappointed and we have to do better. We have to do better because we can do better, but tonight it is too late.
“They had too many set pieces that’s true and with one of them they scored,” added Klopp.
“Then more or less straight away they score the second one and then the atmosphere was completely different, you could feel it.
“They were on their bikes and we had to deal with the situation.”
— Guardian News & Media Ltd