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Liverpool end Napoli’s unbeaten run but fall short of top spot

Liverpool players celebrate after beating Napoli. Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP

Liverpool ended Napoli’s 21-game unbeaten run but a 2-0 win on Tuesday was not enough to dislodge the Italians from top spot in Champions League Group A.

Both sides were already guaranteed their places in the last 16, but Jurgen Klopp’s men again shrugged off their Premier League problems on a European night at Anfield.

Mohamed Salah forced the ball over the line after Alex Meret just kept out Darwin Nunez’s header five minutes from time.

Nunez then added a second with the last kick of the game to secure a fifth consecutive Champions League win for Liverpool since losing 4-1 to Napoli in September.

The comprehensive margin of that win meant Luciano Spalletti’s just needed to avoid defeat by a four-goal margin to secure top spot.

Liverpool never looked like inflicting that sort of damage despite naming a stronger than expected line-up with a trip to Tottenham to come in the Premier League on Sunday.

But they did manage to end Napoli’s club record run on 13 straight wins and keep the free-scoring Italians scoreless for just the second time this season.

The Reds were beaten at home in the Premier League in front of a crowd for the first time in over five years in a 2-1 defeat to Leeds on Saturday.

Napoli arrived at Anfield having already scored 50 goals this season, but failed to produce their best without the motivation of having to win.

Thiago Alcantara forced Meret into the only significant save of a pedestrian first half.

Napoli upped the tempo after the break as they aimed to become just the second Italian side to ever win all six games in the Champions League group stage.

Leo Ostigard headed in Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s teasing free-kick, but the Norwegian was denied by a VAR review for offside.

Kvaratskhelia has been the revelation of Italian football this season.

The Georgian was expected to give Trent Alexander-Arnold a torrid night, but his best effort deflected off the right-back and safely into the arms of Alisson Becker.

Klopp sent on Nunez for the final 15 minutes in search of a winner and the Uruguayan made a telling impact.

Both goals came from corners as Nunez rose highest to meet Kostas Tsimikas’ delvery and as Meret fumbled the ball off the line, Salah was on hand to smash home the rebound.

Nunez nearly created a second for Salah with a determined run and cross that was deflected just beyond the Egyptian.

The former Benfica striker then tapped in his sixth goal of the season much to the chagrin of Virgil van Dijk.

Meret again got a hand to the Dutch defender’s header and Nunez was initially flagged offside when he prodded the ball in as it was possibly on its way over the line.

However, another lengthy VAR review revealed Nunez was onside, allowing both he and Van Dijk to see the funny side.

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