Liverpool were humiliated on their return to Champions League action as outstanding Napoli ran out comprehensive 4-1 winners against Jurgen Klopp’s struggling side.
Just 102 days on from losing the final to Real Madrid on a chaotic night at the Stade de France, the Reds returned to continental action looking for a club-record seventh consecutive European away win.
But Liverpool’s stuttering Premier League form continued into their Champions League opener and they were fortunate to only be three down against Luciano Spalletti’s exciting Napoli at half-time.
Victor Osimhen struck the woodwork seconds into a game that was only five minutes old when Piotr Zielinski converted a penalty awarded for James Milner’s handball.
Napoli soon had another spot-kick but Alisson Becker denied Osimhen, before Virgil van Dijk – who had given away that penalty – got back to thwart Khvicha Kvaratskhelia with a fine goal-line clearance.
But Liverpool wilted rather than rallied at the cavernous Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, where ex-Fulham midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and substitute Giovanni Simeone struck before half-time.
Napoli were celebrating a fourth moments into the second half as Zielinski grabbed a smart second, meaning Luis Diaz’s quick response was only ever going to be a consolation.
"Really tough to take, it's not that difficult to explain when you watched the game," Klopp told BT Sport.
"To start with the two penalties. OK first of all Napoli played a really good game, we didn't, that is the first explanation for the defeat.
"They scored one penalty and missed another but the next two goals we served on a plate and we should defend better. 3-0 down having chances but never really in the game.
"We were not compact defensively or offensively. Until Thiago entered the pitch I cannot remember one counter-pressing situation, we were too wide.
"Everything is obvious but why it happened, I cannot answer now, let me think about it. It is a really tough cookie to take, but I have to take it."
The celebrations were sure to continue long into the night in southern Italy, while Liverpool will hope their poor start to the campaign has bottomed out with this embarrassing defeat.
"We were miles too open. You can't come to a place like this and not be compact. They were by miles the better team," said Reds defender Andy Robertson.
"Too many times they had spaces to run at us and cause us problems. You come away in the Champions League and you can't be wide open like that. We have to get back to basics and be compact.
"We deserve this result. The way we were wide open they found so many spaces. It felt like they had an extra man. You have to be ready to fight. We have to wake up and quickly because we can't perform like that."