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Liverpool 1-0 Napoli: Mo Salah first half goal send Reds to last 16 on a nervy night at Anfield

So there we go, Liverpool are into the last 16 of the Champions League with an impressive win over Napoli that just missed some icing on the cake after a host of missed chances late on.

They finish second in Group C and are joined by Tottenham, whose 1-1 draw in Barcelona was enough after Inter Milan could only draw at home to PSV Eindhoven.

All four English teams into the knockout round. Tomorrow night Manchester City and Manchester United are in action having already secured their places.

Sometimes Mo Salah’s intentions are obvious. Play the ball down to him down the right channel, for example, and the Liverpool forward will usually try and roll his defender and spin away towards goal.

That was the case when the key moment arrived here against Napoli in the latter stages of the first half. We knew what he was going to do. Napoli’s defenders doubtless knew what he was going to do also. But Salah did it anyway and within a couple of seconds Salah was away, past another defender and the ball was in the back of the net.

The Liverpool goalkeeper staying big and the replacement Napoli striker could hardly believe his eyes

That, in the end, was all it took to take Liverpool in to the next round of the Champions League. 1-0 used to sound like a very unlikely Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool scoreline but that is less the case this season. That was one of the permutations that favoured them ahead of this game and it proved enough.

Not that it was that kind of game. Not at all. Liverpool created half a dozen good chances as they dominated the second half at Anfeld but missed all of them. Salah himself was culpable, as were Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk.

So that made it a very tense night indeed. Great for the TV viewers but nerve shredding for those in the stadium.

Crucially, though, Napoli were also less than perfect in front of goal and their villain turned out to be right-sided forward Jose Callejon. With only minutes remaining, he was presented with a breakaway chance at the far post that would have killed Liverpool. It was a gilt-edged opportunity really. But Callejon spooned it over with his right foot and that was that.

The absence of two of Liverpool’s best three central defenders felt a little ominous. In the absence of the injured Joe Gomez and also Dejan Lovren – who has had a concussion – Joel Matip partnered Virgil van Dijk, hardly ideal against a nimble and quick attacking team.

For Liverpool, however, it was all about getting the first goal. Such were the complicated mathematics that Liverpool began knowing that a Napoli goal would leave them needing three. Perhaps predictably, there were signs of the threat carried by the Italian team from the start.

Group C table as Liverpool and PSG progress to Last 16

MATCH FACTS AND STATS

Liverpool: 

Alisson, Alexander-Arnold (Lovren), Matip, van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Henderson, Milner (Fabinho), Salah, Firmino (Keita), Mané

Unused subs:  

Sturridge, Mignolet, Shaqiri, Origi

Bookings: Van Dijk

Goals: Salah (34)

Napoli:

Ospina, Maksimovic, Albiol, Koulibaly, Rui (Ghoulam) , Callejón, Loureiro, Hamsik, Ruiz (Zielinski), Insigne, Mertens (Milik)

Unused subs: 

Ounas, Hysaj, Karnezis, Diawara

Bookings: Koulibaly

Goals:  None

Referee: Damir Skomina

WATCH HIGHLIGHT

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