LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) – Roberto Firmino struck a stoppage-time winner as Liverpool beat Paris St Germain 3-2 at Anfield on Tuesday after Kylian Mbappe looked to have secured a point for the French side in a compelling Champions League Group C clash.
Anfield played host to some memorable matches in this competition last season as Liverpool marched towards a losing final appearance against Real Madrid, and the first match of the current group stage proved to be another electric night of entertainment.
PSG had come back from two goals down with French World Cup winner Mbappe equalising in the 83rd minute, but then Firmino, who started on the bench due to an eye injury, drilled home a low shot in the final seconds.
It was a deserved victory for Juergen Klopp’s team who had been on top for most of the match and handled the sport’s most expensively-assembled frontline with some confidence.
Yet it was agonising for PSG, who had looked buried in the first half but showed character to claw themselves back on level terms.
Daniel Sturridge, who had not started a Champions League game since his days with Chelsea in 2012, was given the nod to replace Firmino in attack and the English striker responded superbly.
With Anfield in loud and proud mood, Liverpool came roaring out and put Thomas Tuchel’s side under intense pressure from the outset.
Virgil van Dijk forced Alphonse Areola into early action in the sixth minute while the PSG keeper also did well to keep out a low drive from James Milner.
Milner brought another roar out of the home fans when he left Neymar crumpled on the floor after a crunching, but fair, tackle on the Brazil forward.
The former Barcelona striker offered a reminder of his threat, however, in the 17th minute as he broke away from Trent Alexander-Arnold and tested his compatriot Alisson Becker, in the Liverpool goal, with a snap-shot.
Liverpool were winning every challenge in midfield and managing to nullify the dangers presented by Neymar and Mbappe and they were charging forward with intent at every opportunity.
It was Sturridge who opened the scoring in the 30th minute with a fine header from an Andy Robertson cross, the striker getting in between Thiago Silva and Presnel Kimpembe and powering home his effort.
Six minutes later the Reds doubled their lead when PSG defender Juan Bernat tripped Georginio Wijnaldum in the area and Milner slotted home the penalty.
The Parisians got themselves back into the game though five minutes before the break when Robertson, who had been outstanding in restricting Mbappe, failed to clear and Thomas Meunier drove home a first-time effort.
Liverpool thought they had a third after the break when Mohamed Salah had the ball in the net but the effort was ruled out by referee Cuneyt Cakır who correctly ruled that Sturridge had fouled Areola when the pair scrapped for a loose ball.
Even at 2-1 Liverpool looked comfortably in charge but with seven minutes to go, Salah carelessly gave the ball away in his own half, Neymar ran towards the home defence and the ball fell to the 19-year-old Mbappe who drove home with supreme confidence.
Just as the home crowd were reconciling themselves to two dropped points, Firmino showed he could match the Frenchman for clinical finishing, eking out just enough space for a drilled, diagonal shot which sent Anfield into ecstasy.