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Dublin Swoons For Alisson As Liverpool Run Riot Against Napoli

Dublin Swoons For Alisson As Liverpool Run Riot Against Napoli
By Gavin Cooney Updated

An arrival from Rome to Dublin to the unstinting adulation of tens of thousands of devoted followers: the Pope might be joined by Alisson Becker on Reeling in the Years.

Liverpool cruised to a 5-0 win against Napoli in front of 51,512 of their own supporters today, but the better part of affection was directed in one direction: the Aviva's support of the new Liverpool goalkeeper was as whole as it was easily earned as from the moment he emerged to a quarter-full ground for his warm-up to his final act, Alisson was cheered more loudly than any of his teammates. (Goalscorers aside).

His every touch was cheered for the opening 35 minutes, and when he fumbled a ball he tried to catch in the first half, his catch of the resulting corner earned a roar on par with both of Liverpool's first-half goals.

That was his only notable fault, and with a fairly lifeless Napoli failing to call him into action his most impressive contribution came in the build-up to Liverpool's opening goal.

The goal owed much to Alisson's delivery, as the Brazilian pinged an-inch perfect over the Napoli defence and into the path of Mo Salah. After a couple of foiled crosses, the ball eventually found its way to Sadio Mane in the penalty area. Mané laid to off to an unmarked James Milner on the penalty spot, who lashed a shot into the top corner of the net.

Within five minutes, Liverpool had a second: Winjaldum heading home a Milner cross in much the same fashion as did past Alisson in last season's Champions League.

This being Alisson's debut, the 50,000 Liverpool fans rammed into the Aviva Stadium were eager to make him feel at home. They did so by converting Landsdowne into a kind of ersatz Anfield, replete with the acapella extension on You'll Never Walk Alone prior to kick off. That there were as many phones in the air as scarves served as a reminder that, for many here, this was an experience sufficiently rare to deserve being relived/interrupted/hastily deleted when the same phones run low on internal memory.

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All of this rolled from stands emblazoned with Liverpool's invitation to become "part of the world's greatest football family".

Their favourite son got his goal two minutes before the hour mark: Salah pouncing upon a rebound in the penalty area to curl the ball past Napoli 'keeper Orestis Karnezis. The ball had come off Raul Albiol as he stumbled from a collision with Mane, and a cohort of Napoli players angrily chased after the referee Michael Ballack-style; a kind of fury incongruous with the occasion.

Among Liverpool's other new faces: Naby Keita was clumsy on the ball but offered Liverpool a penalty area penetration they lacked last season, and would probably have scored in the first half but for a last-ditch intervention by Kalidou Koulibally; Fabinho played the final half-hour in the centre of midfield as a replacement for James Milner. Xherdan Shaqiri was a half-time substitute for Roberto Firmino and suggested he might offer Liverpool some depth beyond their Brazilian number 9, as Daniel Sturridge is a different type of player.

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Whereas Firmino is fain to drop deep and leave space for Mane and Salah, Sturridge spends far longer facing the opposition goal. Here he turned that to an advantage as Napoli flagged, but missed two one-on-ones in the space of a minute here before finally getting Liverpool's fourth: Karenzis diverting Divock Origi's shot into his path.

Liverpool had a fifth within as many minutes, as Alberto Moreno's shot slipped through the feeble wrists of Karenzis.

It was the kind of frail goalkeeping that Liverpool will hope is part of their past, rather than future.

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