Champions League: Sevilla comeback stuns Liverpool, Dortmund crashes out

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/teams/sevilla/" data-ylk="slk:Sevilla">Sevilla</a>’s Guido Pizarro equalizes late in stoppage time against <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/teams/liverpool/" data-ylk="slk:Liverpool">Liverpool</a>. (Reuters)
Sevilla’s Guido Pizarro equalizes late in stoppage time against Liverpool. (Reuters)

With 45 minutes gone in Sevilla on Tuesday night, Liverpool was roaring toward the Champions League’s Round of 16 – 3-0 up, top spot in the group all but confirmed, and early-season European struggles a thing of the past.

Forty-five minutes later, Jurgen Klopp’s men were reeling.

They still should qualify for the knockout stages – all they’ll need is a point at home against Spartak Moscow on Matchday 6 – but a furious Sevilla comeback injected unnecessary doubt into Liverpool’s Group E superiority.

The hosts erased a 3-0 deficit with two goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half, then an equalizer in the third minute of stoppage time. They reopened Liverpool’s set-piece defending wound that has bled so profusely over the past three months. They ruined a night that should have been joyous for the Reds.


Liverpool would have been four points clear of their Andalusian counterparts, and five points clear of Spartak after the Russians conceded a last-gasp equalizer of their own to Maribor earlier in the day. Klopp’s side appeared to be well on its way, courtesy of a trio of close-range goals that tipped an even match decidedly in their favor.

The first two were nearly identical. Less than 90 seconds in, Giorginio Wijnaldum rose at the near post, flicked a corner to the back post, and Roberto Firmino ghosted in for a simple finish.


Twenty minutes later – after Sevilla had struck the post and missed another golden chance – Coutinho swung in another corner from the same side. This time, Firmino was the first to meet it; Sadio Mane snuck in unmarked at the back stick to double the lead.

Before the half-hour mark, Liverpool was 3-0 to the good. The two previous goal-scorers combined for the third. Mane sped out of the reaches of a patchwork Sevilla defense. His effort was saved by Sergio Rico, but the rebound fell right into the path of Firmino. The Brazilian’s no-look finish capped a wonderful 30 minutes for the visitors:


The tide turned pretty soon after halftime, however. Wissam Ben Yedder headed home the hosts’ first goal in the 51st minute, then pulled his side back to 3-2 with a 60th-minute penalty. Alberto Moreno was the guilty party for Liverpool, and was substituted shortly thereafter.

Two minutes later, Loris Karius saved a Sevilla shot onto the crossbar. Liverpool was rattled. It regained its balance midway through the half, and appeared to have held on. But the set-piece defending … again. Guido Pizarro capped off the turnaround.

Liverpool can still top the group with a win on Matchday 6. And frankly, a point in Sevilla is a perfectly acceptable result. But the way it came about will have Klopp and Liverpool fans fuming.

Borussia Dortmund is out

Dortmund was officially eliminated on Tuesday, which is no surprise. But a second-half Tottenham comeback, from 1-0 down to 2-1 up, twisted the knife in BVB’s failed Champions League campaign. It also might be the blow that precedes the coup de grace for manager Peter Bosz.

Last year’s quarterfinalists were heading toward the Europa League anyway with Real Madrid winning 6-0 at APOEL Nicosia. But they were in position to end a rotten run of form with a win over the Group H leaders. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had them 1-0 up at halftime.


However, Harry Kane equalized shortly after the break. Heung-Min Son drove home the dagger 15 minutes from full-time:


The Germans have now taken just one point from their last five in all competitions, and haven’t won in the Bundesliga or Champions League since September. They were held to two 1-1 draws by APOEL, and have lost three league matches on the trot. A fourth, in Saturday’s derby against Schalke, would surely end Bosz’s nascent reign – if it even lasts that long.

Napoli gets what it needed

The Serie A leaders lost 2-1 to Shakhtar Donetsk on Matchday 1, and failed to glean anything from their two games against Manchester City. They therefore needed a multi-goal win over Shakhtar at home on Tuesday to remain alive heading into Matchday 6. And they got it.

They were stifled for almost an hour, but wing wizard Lorenzo Insigne scored a magical goal to break the deadlock:


Piotr Zielinski found the roof of the net in the 81st minute to double the lead, and Dries Mertens confirmed Napoli’s successful evening two minutes later.

The 3-0 win ensured Napoli would hold the tiebreaker – head-to-head goals – over the Ukrainian side if the two finish level on points. With one match to play, Shahktar remains three points better. But it must play Man City on Matchday 6, while Napoli gets Feyenoord. Wins for Napoli and City would eliminate Shakhtar and send the Italians through.

City has already clinched top spot. At a dormant Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, it beat Feyenoord 1-0 on an 88th-minute Raheem Sterling winner.

Could Besiktas be a quarterfinal dark horse?

Besiktas qualified for a first Champions League knockout round in club history with a 1-1 draw at home against Porto on Tuesday. Crucially, the point also secured top spot in Group G for the Turks. If the group stage ended right now, that would give them roughly a three-in-seven chance of facing FC Basel, Shakhtar Donetsk or Sevilla in the Round of 16. Could they use their seeding as a platform for a run to the quarterfinals, or perhaps even the semis?

There are a lot of “if”s here, of course, but Besiktas will probably be the only team from outside Europe’s top five leagues in the seeded pot. It is therefore the best bet to become the first such team to reach the semis since PSV Eindhoven in 2004-05. But just because it’s the best bet doesn’t mean it’s a likelihood.

Porto, meanwhile, is now tied on seven points with RB Leipzig after the Germans blasted Monaco 4-1. But Porto can advance with a win of its own over Monaco on Matchday 6.

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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.

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