Liverpool were knocked out of the Champions League following a 0-0 draw with Real Madrid at Anfield on Wednesday.
Jurgen Klopp’s side played reasonably well but were unable to break down the visitors’ defence, meaning that their poor performance and 3-1 first-leg defeat in Spain ultimately decided the tie.
Yet it’s not as if they didn’t have any decent chances to break the deadlock on the night. The best opportunity they had occurred as early as the second minute of the match.
A long pass from Ozan Kabak in the centre-circle found Sadio Mane just outside the penalty area. He squared the ball to Mohamed Salah who had space, but the Egyptian’s shot was straight at Thibaut Courtois and the danger passed.
Had he scored things might have worked out very differently for Liverpool, but such is life when you play a very low-scoring sport. The biggest moments get amplified in their importance.
Klopp was all too aware of this when he spoke after the match. "It was uncomfortable for Madrid, we were good, we were aggressive, we played some really good stuff, had massive chances in the beginning of the game," he said.
"If we take one of them, it opens up. They had already struggles, it would have increased that. But if and when isn’t interesting because we didn’t score and then with the experience of Real Madrid they slowed it down," Klopp added.
"We've had ridiculous games here where we should have won, not tonight, but in the Premier League, where we just didn’t finish. Many times Mo Salah would finish this type of thing. We had so many situations and we could have created more because the football we played was better."
It's hard to argue with Klopp's assessment, and the purpose of this article is not to denigrate Salah for his Madrid miss. It’s not realistic to expect forwards to put away every chance which comes their way by any means.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – for it is they who every player of this generation will be measured against – convert somewhere between one out of every six or seven non-penalty shots they take.
If that’s the level of those players, it’s pointless to expect anybody else to tuck away close to every chance they get.
But what was unfortunate about the miss by Salah was that it continued a theme which has dogged Liverpool at Anfield since Christmas, and goes a long way to explaining their terrible home record.
In the Reds’ last 10 matches at their famous old ground they have had a total of 12 non-penalty chances which have been classified as clear-cut by Opta.
These are defined as situations where “a player should reasonably be expected to score, usually in a one on one scenario or from very close range when the ball has a clear path to goal and there is low to moderate pressure on the shooter.”
The fact that Liverpool have barely averaged one of these chances per game is not good, but at a time when they have been struggling for form, only converting two of them has proven hugely costly.
And as the first of the dozen was guided home by Mane against West Bromwich Albion, only one of their last 11 clear-cut chances at Anfield has found the back of the net.
To compound their misery further, many of the golden opportunities were squandered when they were in a position to take the lead in matches.
Roberto Firmino had a late header saved against the Baggies, then had the Reds’ best chance when they hosted Manchester United, with both matches ending all square.
Divock Origi then hit the woodwork when clean through in a goalless first half with Burnley, before Salah missed another second minute clear-cut chance against Brighton, and one later in the game once the Seagulls were in front.
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Liverpool’s number 11 also poked a shot wide against Aston Villa last weekend when he only had the goalkeeper to beat, though the Reds were at least able to come back from a goal down to win that match in the end.
Of course, there is no way to know how the aforementioned games would have finished had Liverpool opened the scoring when presented with a great opportunity to do so.
But history certainly suggests they would have picked up better results than they actually did. In the last four seasons, Klopp’s side have scored first in 98 Premier League games and have gone on to win 82 of them.
What’s more, the only two occasions where they’ve taken the lead and lost were away from home. It happened at Arsenal last season after the title had been secured and again at Leicester in February.
You have to look back almost exactly four years to when the Reds last scored first at Anfield and lost, and that was in the defeat to Crystal Palace which was followed by their club record unbeaten run at home.
Liverpool would have been very fortunate to convert all of their recent clear-cut chances, but by the same token it’s hard not to think what might have been had they put even a few of them away.
Let’s hope this barren run ends when Newcastle United are the next visitors to Anfield.