Napoli beat Liverpool at the San Paolo for the second season running, as a Dries Mertens penalty and Fernando Llorente strike stunned the Champions League holders.
These sides met in the group stage last season too, each winning 1-0 at home, so the eventual trophy victors only qualified thanks to overall goal difference. Alisson Becker, Divock Origi and Naby Keita were out injured, but Lorenzo Insigne and Andy Robertson passed fitness tests to start.
Adrian had to make a sensational double save on Fabian Ruiz after seven minutes, but when Chucky Lozano got the rebound in, the Mexico international was offside.
Kalidou Koulibaly performed a series of perfectly-timed sliding tackles, while Alex Meret’s gloves were stung by Sadio Mane at the back post after Insigne gave it away cheaply.
Joel Matip made a decisive interception to stop Lozano tapping in the Dries Mertens cross from the right, as Napoli passed it around well and were only under pressure from Salah’s rapid counter-attacks.
There was a double danger from Liverpool just before half-time, as first Mario Rui made the right defensive run to stop Salah tapping in a ball across the face of goal, then on the corner Roberto Firmino’s header glanced inches past the post.
These were two teams eager to play, which is why there were only three fouls in the entire first half.
Mertens was convinced he’d scored when Mario Rui’s cross beat Van Dijk for a cushioned volley at the back post, but somehow Adrian managed to flap it out of the near top corner with his trailing hand. It was a simply spectacular save.
Insigne’s shot was charged down by Trent Alexander-Arnold, but the arm was flush to his body, so could not be considered handball. On that corner, Liverpool went on the counter two against one, but Mane’s pass was over-hit for Salah.
The hosts started to take control and a series of yellow cards for Liverpool showed they were under pressure, but Kostas Manolas got away with a howler thanks to Alex Meret’s sensational one-handed save on the Salah angled drive.
Meret had an easier task on Mane’s shot from a similar position, as it was weak on a marvellous no-look Firmino assist.
Napoli seemed exhausted, but Callejon went over a Henderson challenge a bit easily and the referee awarded the penalty, waved on by VAR. Mertens converted, even though Adrian did get a hand to it, and put the hosts in front with eight minutes remaining.
Callejon’s cross sailed over the head of substitute Fernando Llorente, but in stoppages the Spaniard pounced on a poor Van Dijk back-pass to Robertson and fired it past the on-rushing Adrian for 2-0.
Napoli 2-0 Liverpool
Mertens pen 82 (N), Llorente 92 (N)
Napoli: Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Callejon, Allan (Elmas 75), Fabian Ruiz, Insigne (Zielinski 66); Mertens, Lozano (Llorente 68)
Liverpool: Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson (Shaqiri 86), Fabinho, Milner (Wijnaldum 66); Salah, Firmino, Mane
Ref: Brych (GER)
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