Roberto Firmino's Late Goal Edges Liverpool Past Neymar, PSG in Champions League

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistSeptember 18, 2018

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 18:  Neymar of Paris Saint-Germain runs with the ball under pressure from Jordan Henderson of Liverpool during the Group C match of the UEFA Champions League between Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain at Anfield on September 18, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Liverpool exploded back onto the European stage on Tuesday and beat Paris Saint-Germain 3-2 after Roberto Firmino came on to score an injury-time winner for the Anfield hosts.  

Daniel Sturridge and James Milner scored within six minutes of one another to put Liverpool two goals up after 36 minutes, but Thomas Meunier halved the deficit before half-time to get PSG off the mark.

Kylian Mbappe equalised in the 83rd minute, but Merseyside roared last season's runners-up onto victory as Firmino, who came on for Sturridge, intervened late to claim all three points.

         

Thomas Tuchel Isn't the Man to Realise PSG's Champions League Dream

Ever since the Qatari takeover of 2011, it has been PSG's primary motive to one day win the Champions League, the true barometer of quality in Europe, but Thomas Tuchel showed signs on Tuesday he won't break the duck.

Carlo Ancelotti, Laurent Blanc and Unai Emery have all tried, and the initial setup of his team at Anfield showed tactical inadequacies in Tuchel that suggest he'll also struggle to bring PSG European accolades.

Given Liverpool's attacking record—they scored 135 times in 56 matches last season—a robust midfield seems a natural priority at Anfield. PSG are currently affected by injuries, but the decision to move winger Angel Di Maria and centre-back Marquinhos into the middle courted criticism:

Even at 33 years of age, defensive midfielder Lassana Diarra could have provided a valuable foil to the more creative Adrien Rabiot, while it could have also been the time to hand 20-year-old Christopher Nkunku a big chance.

The German was also made to rue his decision to start Juan Bernat ahead of Stanley N'Soki at left-back, per Get French Football News, after the former gave a clear penalty away for a foul on Georginio Wijnaldum:

One of the major issues with PSG being quite so dominant in Ligue 1—they've won five of the last six league titles—is that defiance can sometimes be quite foreign to their stars.

It was visible for a lot of the second half at Anfield on Tuesday, when not all PSG players looked equally motivated to get the result, struggling to urge each other on or unearth a leader among their ranks.

The midfield disconnect caused a shortage of ammunition for Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe out wide in particular, who at times looked uninterested in the more defensive aspect of the fixture.

Perhaps it's a fault of the players, but then Tuchel is responsible for instilling in his stars the motivation to win big games, and it looked to be absent from the visiting team on Merseyside.

A lack of motivation from the sidelines combined with few tactical changes is a dance PSG have done before in this competition, with Tuchel already hinting it could be more of the same from his side in Europe.

       

PSG's Shallow Squad Can't Win This Season's Champions League

It's all well and good having an elite XI boasting some of the best on the continent, but it was clear more than ever on Tuesday that PSG won't get the silverware they seek until they build a bench to befit their starters.

The transition of Marquinhos and Di Maria to less familiar midfield roles has been discussed, but presenter Matt Spiro went one step further in criticising the club's lack of preparations over the summer:

This is not long after the French titans sold Javier Pastore to AS Roma, allowed Thiago Motta to retire and loaned Giovani Lo Celso to Real Betis. One might argue the quality of those players aren't superior to anything Tuchel used on Tuesday, but at least they're players natural to the position.

There's really no excuse for it, either, given the club's remarkable expenditure in years gone by. The CIES Football Observatory recently contrasted their spending against those of their rivals in France, showing it be proportionately far above anything else seen in Ligue 1:

The combined £366 million spend to acquire Neymar and Mbappe clearly distorts those figures, but that's the issue, in that PSG have spent too heavily to improve one area and not paid enough attention to the collective.

Liverpool are the antithesis of that, meanwhile. Admittedly, the huge expenditures at Anfield have picked up pace recently, but Dream Team depicted how their strength in depth runs in their favour:

Being able to call on younger powers like Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez in defence to replace international-standard players. Having the ability to bench Keita and Fabinho in favour of Henderson, Milner and Wijnaldum, a trio who might have expected to be sidelined this season.

PSG can learn a lesson from Liverpool in how to spread investment properly, and their lack of solutions across the field Tuesday made it painfully obvious.

                   

Jordan Henderson Silences Critics With Strong Performance

Henderson has been scrutinised of late for not garnering an automatic place in the Liverpool XI and whether that's a place befitting an armband-wearer, but a high-quality, no-holds-barred display has silenced some of those critics.

Granted, it was a mish-mash midfield against whom the anchorman was starting, but he was nonetheless a constant strain for the guests to deal with, per blogger Leanne Prescott:

The recent 2-1 win over Leicester City was Henderson's only start of the Premier League campaign prior to Tuesday, coming on as a substitute in their other four outings thus far.

It's led to murmurs he perhaps shouldn't have the armband, but comments from Klopp in the programme notes also suggest that's not on the mind of the manager, per the Evening Standard's David Lynch:

Captains are more influential characters than any 90 minutes will tell, and Henderson has been a consummate professional despite the discourse.

The likes of Fabinho and Keita may face the former Sunderland star out of the XI in time, but Henderson demonstrated his ability to shrug off the distractions and perform all the same.

         

What's Next?

Liverpool will be back in Premier League action on Saturday and host Southampton as they look to defend their place atop the standings, while PSG will be back on the road when they travel to Rennes on Sunday.

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