Liverpool downed by West Ham flop as Atalanta capitalise on performance Klopp can’t afford in PL

Jason Soutar
Dominik Szoboszlai looks dejected after Liverpool concede a goal
Dominik Szoboszlai looks dejected after Liverpool concede a goal

Atalanta were not bothered by the Anfield aura as they took advantage of a dismal performance from Liverpool, with West Ham flop Gianluca Scamacca popping up with two goals in a huge 3-0 win for the Italians.

Liverpool have not particularly played well in a lot of their wins this season, with Premier League clubs often succumbing to the Anfield intimidation factor, but the Reds did not have that psychological boost over Atalanta on Thursday evening.

The Serie A side simply did not care about Liverpool or Anfield’s reputation, taking the game to a Reds team that Jurgen Klopp majorly switched up. Mohamed Salah, Dominik Szoboszlai, Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Conor Bradley all started on the bench and Atalanta knew they had a chance to take the game to their hosts.

Mario Palasic missed a sitter in the opening minutes, smashing the ball off of Caoimhin Kelleher’s face from close range and almost lived to regret the miss when Darwin Nunez cocked up a one-on-one, with his dink over Juan Musso going wide.

Liverpool were not playing very well at all and were made to pay by former West Ham striker Gianluca Scamacca – a man who scored eight goals in one season at the Hammers before deciding he wanted to return to Italy. David Moyes could not get a tune out of the 25-year-old but he thrives in his home country.

There were huge question marks over Kelleher’s attempt to stop Scamacca’s shot. It went through him. He should have saved it. In truth, it was extremely poor goalkeeping from a player who has generally proven so reliable when playing in place of Alisson.

A goal down at half-time and putting in a shambolic performance, you can only imagine what Klopp had to say to his players in the dressing room. The fact he called upon Salah, Szoboszlai and Robertson for the resumption tells you everything you need to know.

Despite a positive 10 minutes at the start of the second half, Liverpool again started playing horrendously. Even still, their astounding record of coming from behind to win was always in our minds. Jurgen Klopp’s mentality monsters always find a way. Well, not this time.

Atalanta goalkeeper Musso was forced into a couple of saves but only one from Salah truly tested him.

A dire overall performance then brought us some embarrassing defending. Ibrahima Konate and Joe Gomez decided to completely ignore Scamacca’s presence as the Atalanta striker found the bottom corner expertly with his left foot, leaving a helpless Kelleher rooted to the spot.

Liverpool did not look like scoring at all and even when they did somehow have the ball in the back of the net, Salah’s strike was ruled out for offside. Not long after that, Pasalic made it 3-0, surely putting the tie beyond doubt. Liverpool do have history of overcoming 3-0 deficits against Italian teams at the halfway stage in Europe, mind.

There is something beautiful about a Premier League flop coming back to haunt an English club in Europe. You can surely expect a nice feature on that tomorrow.

Allowing Scamacca to net a brace in front of his home fans will be the least of Klopp’s worries. Liverpool have probably not played this bad in the last two years. It was their first home defeat since last February’s mauling at the hands of Real Madrid.

On the other hand, Klopp and Liverpool will probably be happy they saved this sort of performance for the Europa League, not the Premier League. The nature of the beast means they can not afford to lose games in this title race, especially not at home.

The race against Manchester City and Arsenal already is relentless and Klopp’s men will probably return to winning ways when they host Crystal Palace on Sunday and everything will be sunshine and rainbows again. But what if they don’t? What if going 1-0 down in matches has finally become unsustainable? Liverpool fans in the comments will no doubt say, ‘You’d like that wouldn’t you!’ but they have got away with a few shaky showings this season.

Thankfully for Klopp, Premier League clubs will still fear Anfield and know in the back of their minds that leading against Liverpool or even drawing late on like Sheffield United is still a very dangerous position to be in.

Atalanta did not give a bloody damn, though. Manchester City and Arsenal will hope Liverpool’s Premier League opponents adopt the same approach between now and the end of the season. Easier said than done, mind.

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