Lightning does strike twice, then. Same stadium, same end, same competition. Same delight for Napoli, same frustration for Liverpool. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare Messi a man for all Champions League seasons – but will this really be Barcelona’s? Are Chelsea this season’s Ajax? Super-subs Batshuayi & Pulisic show Blues can dare to dream Time for another transfer? Giroud’s Chelsea spell set to end like his Arsenal career For the second season in a row, Jurgen Klopp’s side leave Stadio San Paolo with a Champions League group stage defeat. They won’t want to return in a hurry. This year, as last, they ended up on the wrong end of a tight game, though this time the loss was 2-0 rather than 1-0.If the Reds have a bogey team, it’s Carlo Ancelotti’s men, who have now recorded three wins against them in the space of 11 months.Dries Mertens’ late penalty, awarded after Andy Robertson was adjudged to have fouled Jose Callejon, and a stoppage-time strike from former Tottenham striker Fernando Llorente, condemned them here. It wasn’t as late a blow as last year, when Lorenzo Insigne scored in the final minutes, but that will be of little consolation to the European champions, who will feel they merited at least a point from an absorbing contest. Klopp doesn’t like losing, and his players are not used to it. This was only the second time they had been beaten in 90 minutes since January, and though it need not be fatal in the context of the group, the manner of it will have stung.Klopp was angered by the penalty award – “clear and obvious not a penalty,” he said, and he would ask for a show of hands as to who thought differently in his post-match press conference. When one Italian suggested it was a fair decision, Klopp replied “we both have glasses, but mine have the right prescription!”Liverpool were better here than they were last October, when they could barely string three passes together. They didn’t manage a shot on target that night, but they were more threatening here. Had it not been for one over-hit pass from Sadio Mane and one marvellous save from Alex Meret, the Napoli goalkeeper, the visitors may well have left Italy with the spoils. Liverpool had their own superhero in goal, mind. Adrian, the stand-in for the brilliant Alisson Becker, produced one of the best saves you could wish to see to deny Mertens early in the second half. The Belgian, though, would have the last laugh. Klopp has solved most puzzles in his time at Anfield, but one remains. How does he get this team to win Champions League group matches away from home? This was the seventh his side have played, and they have won only one. They lost all three last season, including here, scraping into the last 16 courtesy of their imperious home form. For 45 minutes, there was not too much wrong with their performance. They pressed intelligently, they threatened on the break and they bossed the midfield, with Fabinho in particular producing a magnificent first half. The final ball, though, was lacking. Mane was denied by Meret, Mo Salah buzzed but couldn’t find an end product. Napoli defended stoutly and gave their fans reason to stay with them as the game wore on. “It should hurt because there were opportunities for us,” said Klopp afterwards. “It was an open game with a lot of counter attacks, but we didn’t finish them off and that is a problem.”Liverpool dropped off after the break, the home side exploiting the gaps which appeared as a result. “It was a wild game,” Klopp said. “We were running and they were running.”Adrian’s incredible one-handed save from Mertens preserved parity, while Meret was equally brilliant at the other end to deny Salah. When Mane broke through two-on-one, he looked for Salah. The pass was over-hit. Maybe he could have been more selfish? The drama was saved for the final eight minutes, Robertson dangling a leg in the box to allow Callejon to tumble. Mertens did the rest, then Llorente, beaten by Liverpool in last year’s final, exacted some revenge with a last-gasp clincher following a rare Virgil van Dijk error. Disappointment for Klopp, for the 1000-or-so travelling Kopites, who did what they could to make themselves heard. Disappointment too for Adrian. He, of all people, deserved better. Subscribe to Goal’s Liverpool Correspondent Neil Jones’ weekly email bringing you the best Liverpool FC writing from around the web
Football is a team sport and the pursuit of glory in the form of trophies is very much a collective endeavour, but individual brilliance is something that is frequently lauded.There are awards for top goalscorers, for example, while goalkeepers are praised for keeping clean sheets at the other end of the pitch.However, the players who exert the most influence on their team and have the deepest impact on games are the ones who receive the highest individual accolades. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare Messi a man for all Champions League seasons – but will this really be Barcelona’s? Are Chelsea this season’s Ajax? Super-subs Batshuayi & Pulisic show Blues can dare to dream Time for another transfer? Giroud’s Chelsea spell set to end like his Arsenal career In the football world there are two main individual awards that are considered to be the top tier: the Ballon d’Or and FIFA’s The Best.Ballon d’Or vs FIFA’s The Best: What’s the difference?There are a number of differences between the two awards which set the Ballon d’Or and The Best apart from one another.The magazine France Football is responsible for the Ballon d’Or, while football’s world governing body, FIFA, is the driving force behind The Best.Furthermore, the time period the players are judged within varies.While the Ballon d’Or takes into account a player’s performances over the course of the calendar year, The Best assesses players over the course of a season, so from summer to summer.As such, they are awarded at different times of the year. The Ballon d’Or award ceremony is traditionally held in December of a given year, whereas The Best awards are given out in autumn – usually September.They also diverge when it comes to the voting.The winner of the Ballon d’Or is voted for exclusively by a panel of journalists from across the world. The Best, on the other hand, is decided by what FIFA describes as an “international jury” comprising the coaches and captains of national teams, journalists and fans.Naturally, the trophies themselves are also different. The Ballon d’Or is a striking golden ball resting on a pyrite base which is made to look like a bed of crystals. FIFA’s The Best trophy, meanwhile, is a platinum and carbon construction, which resembles the highest prize in football – the World Cup.First awarded in 1956, the Ballon d’Or (which is French for Golden Ball) is the older of the two accolades, with The Best first appearing in 2017.Was FIFA involved with the Ballon d’Or?FIFA was previously involved with the Ballon d’Or when they joined forced with France Football between 2010 and 2015.The world governing body had been running the FIFA World Player of the Year award from 1991, but it became defunct when they merged it with the Ballon d’Or.The newly merged award retained all the hallmarks of the Ballon d’Or, with the word FIFA tacked on to the front, making it the ‘FIFA Ballon d’Or’.In a sense, the establishment of FIFA’s new ‘The Best’ award is a sort of resurrection of the old FIFA World Player of the Year.
A lot of people might be wanting to knock off work early for this afternoon’s Blue Jays game.After taking two games in Arlington, the Blue Jays host the Texas Rangers in the fifth and deciding game of their American League Division Series at 4:07 pm.Marcus Stroman, who pitched seven innings in game 2, will start for the Jays, while Texas counters with Cole Hamels.It’s still not certain what role, if any, David Price will play. He says he can still pitch despite throwing 50 pitches in relief in game 4 in Texas on Monday.Manager John Gibbons had said that Price couldn’t pitch today, but he opened the door a little in his comments yesterday.Price is the only lefthander the Jays could draw on from the bullpen unless Aaron Loup returns by game time after dealing with a family emergency.Meanwhile a petition on change.org calling for Major League Baseball to allow the dome at Rogers Centre to be open this afternoon has now passed 20,000 signatures.Fans point out that there’s neither a high risk of rain, nor an expectation of the temperature being less than the minimum 10 degrees specified in the operating guidelines.But a Rogers official tweeted last night that it’s still going to be too cold to risk the aging roof mechanism seizing up, even if the league were to give the okay.Fans are concerned because the Jays had a losing record with the dome closed in the regular season, while they won 38 times and only lost 14 when it was open.