Jurgen Klopp twice repeated one Liverpool change that was a huge difference maker, and hinted one out-of-position star may feature in a new role more often.
Liverpool laid a demon or two from their domestic campaign to rest when ending Napoli’s 13-match winning streak at Anfield.
Qualification to the Champions League knockout stages was already secured for both Liverpool and Napoli. Top spot was up for grabs, though the hosts could only overhaul Napoli with a victory by at least four clear goals.
Luciano Spalletti’s side arrived on Merseyside the form team in Europe, meaning a heavy defeat was never likely even on a European night at Anfield.
A highly competitive contest threw up very little in the way of clear-cut chances in the first half. The contest opened up somewhat after the break, with the introduction of Darwin Nunez off the bench proving decisive from Klopp.
Nunez rose highest to head towards goal from a corner in the 85th minute.. His effort was saved and came within inches of crossing the line, though the goalkeeper’s rebound was prodded home by Mohamed Salah.
The Egyptian’s goal was his 41st for Liverpool in European competition, a figure that brought him level with Steven Gerrard.
His next – which Liverpool hope will be in the Round of 16 – will set Liverpool’s new benchmark in Europe.
With the last kick of the game, Nunez scored with the easiest chance he’ll have in his career to cap off a 2-0 victory.
Virgil van Dijk’s header from a corner was tipped across the goal-line before Nunez stabbed home from millimetres out.
Klopp outlines change that made huge difference
Speaking to BT Sport after the match, Klopp said when asked if he enjoyed the victory: “I did. I would’ve enjoyed it [improved performance] even without the goals, though obviously they were important.
“We showed a really good reaction. Being compact makes all the difference… it makes all the difference.
“All of a sudden we have the challenges in the right spaces, all of a sudden we are difficult to play against.
“If you see what Napoli are able to do at the moment, it was a really good game for us.
“The boys played a good game. A lot of courage, bravery, going into challenges, making a proper fight of it, then two set pieces bring us the three points.
“15 points in a Champions League group is absolutely insane.”
When asked if it’s too simple to say it was ‘back to basics’ tonight, Klopp replied: “No, that’s fine, I’d take that as a compliment, to be honest.
“That’s what we have to do, that’s the start for everything. From that perspective I was really happy with the performance.”
Klopp then used the word “compact” again when stressing why tonight’s display was far superior to the 4-1 defeat in the reverse fixture in Naples.
Liverpool boss impressed with out-of-position star
On central midfielder Curtis Jones who played out of position further forward and out wide, a beaming Klopp said: “He played a good game, a really good game.
“In both directions [attack and defence] I liked him. He was involved in all of our defending.
“The wingers are responsible for keeping it all together, that’s how it is. If they’re too early out then we get exposed, you cannot do that. He did well.”
Given Liverpool qualified as group runners-up, all eyes will be in the Round of 16 draw on Monday, November 7.
Liverpool cannot draw another English side, meaning Man City, Chelsea and Tottenham are all ineligible to face the Reds. Napoli also cannot be drawn in the Round of 16 given they were in the same group.
As such, the only six sides Liverpool can face are FC Porto, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, RB Leipzig, Paris Saint-Germain or Benfica.
That list will be down to four following Wednesday night’s UCL fixtures that will complete the group phase.