Liverpool throw away three-goal lead at Sevilla, settle for 3-3 group-stage draw
SEVILLE, Spain -- Three quick thoughts from Sevilla's comeback from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 vs. Liverpool in the Champions League group stage on Tuesday:
1. Liverpool throw away three-goal lead at Sevilla
Liverpool blew the chance to claim a place in the Champions League knockout stages for the first time since 2009 by throwing away a 3-0 half-time lead to draw 3-3 against Sevilla in Spain.
Two second-half goals by Wissam Ben Yedder -- both before the hour mark -- gave Sevilla the chance to salvage a draw and extend their 25-game unbeaten home run after a Roberto Firmino double and strike by Sadio Mane had put Liverpool 3-0 ahead at the interval. But with time running out at the end of the game, Liverpool looked set to hold on for the win that would confirm qualification and top spot in Group E.
A failure to defend a 93rd-minute corner proved their downfall, however, with Guido Pizarro scoring from a loose ball to snatch a draw for Sevilla and raise further questions over Liverpool's inability to keep it tight at the back.
The game was a classic example of Liverpool's good and bad sides. They scored at least three goals in a game for the fifth outing in succession but once again gave away too many chances at the other end.
And after failing to capitalise on a host of chances in their home game against Sevilla, which ended 2-2, Liverpool again threw victory away. Jurgen Klopp's men must now defeat Spartak Moscow at Anfield next month to guarantee the top spot.
2. Liverpool's 'Fab Four' let down by leaky defence
Liverpool could cause some serious damage to the best teams in the Champions League this season if they can keep their "Fab Four" attacking unit fit and healthy, but at some point, even their heroics will be unable to make up for the team's ongoing defensive problems.
Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Mohamed Salah all started against Sevilla and the four of them caused havoc during the first half, when two Firmino goals and one from Mane gave Klopp's team a 3-0 half-time lead.
Liverpool's pace on the counterattack was breathtaking, with Mane in particular a major threat, and they also showed their threat from set pieces by scoring their first two goals from corners -- both nearly identical. Coutinho then gave an example of his creativity with a stunning pass to Salah that should have been converted by the Egyptian, who saw his shot saved by goalkeeper Sergio Rico.
Still, Liverpool went in at half-time having scored 10 away goals in 135 minutes of Champions League football, following the 7-0 win against Maribor, and they were playing like a team that could score against any opponent. But then came the second-half wobble, with Sevilla scoring twice within the opening 15 minutes of the second period.
In the first half, goalkeeper Loris Karius and the woodwork kept Sevilla out when the home team should have scored, but there was always an inevitability about Liverpool conceding. And just when they looked to have held on for a win, a failure to defend a corner properly three minutes into stoppage time gave Pizarro the chance to equalise, and he didn't waste it.
3. Is Ben Yedder ready for the big time?
Ben Yedder's career has been a slow burner, but the Sevilla forward has always scored goals at a healthy rate, and his two-goal performance against Liverpool will have alerted big clubs across Europe.
At 27, he has still to make a senior appearance for his native France, having previously earned nine caps at U21 level, yet his pace and power suggest he could yet be an outsider to break into Didier Deschamps' squad for the World Cup.
Having signed for Sevilla from Toulouse for just €9 million in the summer of 2016, though, Ben Yedder's form this season will undoubtedly have put him on the radar of bigger and wealthier clubs. With the same powerful build and low centre of gravity as Manchester City's Sergio Aguero, Ben Yedder has that classic penalty-box predator style about him, but his two goals highlighted other qualities.
Despite being one of the smallest players on the pitch, he was able to outjump the Liverpool defence to head home his first on 51 minutes. Nine minutes later, he beat Karius from the penalty spot, only to be forced to retake his kick by referee Felix Brych. But he remained unflustered and sent Karius the wrong way again to score his second.
Had he taken a good chance in the first half, when he shot wide from the edge of the penalty area with Sevilla trailing 1-0, the game would have taken on a different complexion. But nonetheless, Ben Yedder had a big impact on the encounter and he will have big clubs knocking on his door if he continues to perform like this.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_