Reserves Daniel Sturridge, Joel Matip flounder as Liverpool suffer shock defeat in Serbia
A woeful Liverpool suffered their second Champions League defeat of the season as they were beaten by Red Star Belgrade in Serbia on Tuesday night.
Two first-half goals from Milan Pavkov were enough to secure a historic win for the Serbian champions. Liverpool can have no complaints and their place in the knockout rounds of Europe's premier competition is no longer a certainty by any means.
Liverpool can still progress out of Group C. That itself is the only positive from the night. However, their final two games -- a trip to Paris Saint-Germain and then hosting Napoli -- are incredibly tough tests.
Liverpool could have moved to within touching distance of qualification but, for the second season, will probably see their fate determined in the final round of matches. On the pitch, Liverpool are clearly struggling to impose any sort of control in midfield in games when they are fast-paced. It was painfully evident against Huddersfield Town, Arsenal and now Red Star.
Manager rating out of 10
4 -- Jurgen Klopp has needed to find a solution to his midfield conundrum and he hasn't yet. There is so little creativity and pace behind the front three that it's now costing Liverpool. The players also need to take responsibility for this performance, too.
Player ratings: (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alisson, 5 -- No complaints about not stopping the first goal. However, there are legitimate question marks about the second. Yes, it was a fierce effort from distance, but had Alisson tried to save it with his right hand instead of his left then he might have kept it out.
DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 5 -- Taken off at half-time as Klopp felt compelled to make alterations. He can have no real complaints.
DF Joel Matip, 4 -- This was just his third start of the season and it was fairly obvious to see why he's fourth-choice centre-half. Matip is often not aggressive enough and strangely didn't opt to close Pavkov down before his long-range strike.
DF Virgil van Dijk, 4 -- Uncharacteristically poor for the opening goal as a poor header in the build-up led to the awarding of the fateful corner. He was then beaten to the ball by Pavkov from the set piece.
DF Andrew Robertson, 6 -- Liverpool's only decent starter. No issues from him defensively and a bit of decent play when asked to attack.
MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 4 --Those that hoped Wijnaldum's return to the No. 6 role -- after Fabinho's poor display at Arsenal -- would lead to a considerable improvement were wrong.
MF James Milner, 4 -- Probably his worst Liverpool performance for some time. He cheaply gave the ball away for Red Star's second goal.
MF Adam Lallana, 4 -- Lallana is still a long way away from his 2016-17 form. There were a few nice touches every now and then, but the midfielder is clearly off the pace at the moment. He picked up a deserved booking for a late lunge on Marko Marin in the 37th minute.
FW Mohamed Salah, 6 -- Rather quiet after a recent spell of encouraging form, but he did force the goalkeeper into two good saves and hit the post in the second half. Liverpool have more pressing concerns than Salah at the moment.
FW Daniel Sturridge, 3 -- Not at all effective and was hooked after a poor first half. He could have killed off Red Star's enthusiasm in the 17th minute when he was presented with a golden chance. Instead, he blazed over from six yards out and the hosts rallied on from there on.
FW Sadio Mane, 5 -- Red Star just couldn't handle Mane's blistering pace, but Liverpool didn't give him enough opportunities to make an impact.
FW Roberto Firmino, 6 -- He improved Liverpool's attack when he came on at half-time, dropping deep and opening up space for teammates. But it's always difficult against a team that are firmly sitting on the result by that point.
DF Joe Gomez, 5 -- Not required to do much defensively in the second half.
FW Divock Origi, N/R -- His introduction was just Klopp's last throw of the dice.