Jurgen Klopp praised Liverpool's performance in their 2-0 Champions League win over Napoli on Tuesday, saying it was the reaction he wanted from his players following their disappointing domestic form.
The Reds have suffered back-to-back Premier League losses to struggling Nottingham Forest and Leeds United in recent weeks, but showed their quality to dispatch an in-form Napoli side at Anfield thanks to late goals from Mohamed Salah and substitute Darwin Nunez.
Despite finishing on the same points, the Reds qualified from Group A as runners-up behind Napoli having lost their opener to the Italian club 4-1 back in September.
“The reaction I wanted to see,” Klopp said after the Anfield victory. “We all agreed that we have to show a reaction and we did in a very difficult game against a really good opponent.
“We don’t doubt the quality. I don’t think anybody doubts that quality but that’s part of the problem. We don’t show it with consistency.
"It was the worst possible start to this group with the performance against Napoli. They deserved the first place in the group."
Napoli travelled to England unbeaten in all competitions all season, having won their last 13 games in a row – a run stretching back to before their humiliation of Liverpool in September.
They took a more reserved approach from the off at Anfield, happy to sit back and invite pressure from the hosts.
Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen, who had scored six goals in his previous four games in all competitions, should have done better from a good position in the first half, before Liverpool countered and Thiago Alcantara brought a fine save out of Alex Meret in the away goal.
Liverpool v Napoli ratings
The game needed something to ignite it, and Napoli's overturned opener did just that, with the Italians frustrated by how long the decision took to make.
Liverpool stepped it up a gear after that, with Nunez making a real difference when he came off the bench.
It was the Uruguayan whose header was saved before Salah prodded in, and he showed his poacher's instincts at the death to tap home, a goal awarded following another lengthy VAR review.
Salah’s 85th-minute effort saw him equal club great Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool European goal record of 41.
The Egypt international directed home after Nunez’s initial effort was saved, before the substitute scored for a third straight European game with the last kick in stoppage time.
“Absolutely good,” Klopp said of Nunez’s impact.
Napoli's 4-1 demolition of Liverpool in their group opener in September proved crucial in the end, as they finished on 15 points, the same as Liverpool, but with a better goal difference in clashes between the pair.
"We are proud of getting through such a difficult group, not only getting through but topping it," said Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti. "I think we kept the game very even, we created chances for ourselves, we suffered in moments.
"We were playing a giant like Liverpool at Anfield. I can only say well done to my players."