After Liverpool dismantled Red Star 4-0 at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp was clearly satisfied that the Serbians had little to threaten his backline that he decided to replace the imperious Joe Gomez with Joel Matip for the second tie last night.
Matip was not the only fringe player to feature; Englishmen Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge were also thrust centre stage for the auditions they had been waiting for to impress Klopp.
But all three fluffed their lines as the hosts, roared on by a raucous home crowd, raced into a 2-0 lead before the half-hour mark.
As good as Gomez has been this season, Matip has more experience and will have viewed the rare start as an opportunity to close the gap that has emerged between the quality of Liverpool’s first-choice central defenders and the rest of Klopp’s options in that area.
Matip blew that opportunity to the extent that Klopp will have second thoughts about dropping Gomez for future assignments.
It is not easy to be drafted in and hit the ground running, but that is the life of a player who has fallen out of the starting 11; opportunities must be grabbed wherever and whenever they present themselves.