Very Mersey Christ­mas for Klopp

Dra­matic derby puts Reds boss in fes­tive mood

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS | SOCCER - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Liver­pool

Liver­pool boss Jur­gen Klopp fi­nally had a rea­son to cel­e­brate Christ­mas af­ter Sa­dio Mane’s 94 th-minute win­ner earned a 1-0 Mersey­side derby vic­tory at Ever­ton on Mon­day, mov­ing his team up to sec­ond in the Premier League.

The re­sult hauled the Reds to within six points of leader Chelsea head­ing into the hol­i­day pe­riod, the per­fect way to pre­pare for the fes­tiv­i­ties.

“I’m re­ally happy,” said Klopp af­ter his first trip to Good­i­son Park.

“We now have 37 points and that’s good.

“It could have been 40-some­thing (five points were dropped re­cently against Bournemouth and West Ham af­ter Liver­pool led in both), but that’s OK.

“We won’t stop. Tomorrow is our Christ­mas party and this is the first party we have had af­ter a win!

“It’s un­be­liev­ably close and dif­fi­cult each week but it is still like this. You need to be ready for each game, play your best and col­lect the points.

“The play of Ever­ton was wild foot­ball. They were chas­ing us in the first half. We could have done bet­ter but it is re­ally dif­fi­cult to adapt to some­thing like that.

“I am sure in two or three months we can re­act much bet­ter, but to­day it was a lit­tle bit of a sur­prise and we couldn’t han­dle it.”

Un­til Mane struck, on the re­bound from a Daniel Stur­ridge shot, the main talk­ing point was Tof­fees mid­fielder Ross Barkley dodg­ing a red card for a nasty studs-first tackle on Jordan Hen­der­son.

Barkley lunged dan­ger­ously at Hen­der­son and con­nected just above his fel­low mid­fielder and Eng­land team­mate’s an­kle.

“I thought it was a harsh chal­lenge,” said Klopp.

“You all saw it, I don’t have to say any­thing about it. I think Ross is lucky and Hendo is lucky too that noth­ing else hap­pened.”

Ever­ton man­ager Ron­ald Koe­man agreed Barkley could have been dis­missed by ref­eree Mike Dean.

How­ever, as Liver­pool de­fender De­jan Lovren was in­volved in the shov­ing that fol­lowed, Koe­man said he be­lieved the Croa­t­ian might have been sent off, hav­ing been booked ear­lier.

“It was a tough tackle, maybe it’s a red,” he said.

“But what hap­pened af­ter this is not a fair de­ci­sion from the ref­eree.

“Maybe it’s a red for Barkley, but there was a re­ac­tion from sev­eral play­ers and it was started by Lovren.

“He al­ready had a yel­low and the ref­eree gave a yel­low to (Ever­ton’s Sea­mus) Cole­man and no­body else. If you’re straight, you give Lovren his sec­ond yel­low, Cole­man a yel­low and maybe a red card.”

Hen­der­son es­caped in­jury and be­lieved Barkley was in­no­cent of ill in­tent.

“I think it was pretty late but I know Ross well and he’s a good lad. I’m good friends with him,” said Hen­der­son.

“He mist­imed the tackle and af­ter the game he apol­o­gized.

“It was a lit­tle bit late but thank­fully I’m al­right and walk­ing around. It was just mist­imed and you’re go­ing to get them in derby games.

“It’s a derby and it doesn’t mat­ter if you’re friends off the pitch or in the na­tional team.

“When you’re on the pitch you give 100 per­cent to win the game and af­ter you shake hands and move on. Ross is a good lad and I think he just mist­imed one.”

The game, and the man­ner of the goal, was a boost for Eng­land for­ward Stur­ridge, who has been side­lined for over a month through in­jury and strug­gled for fit­ness all sea­son.

“You have Daniel and you’re al­ways think­ing, ‘when is the right time, is he ready for this?’ ” said Klopp.

“Be­cause it is not nor­mal that af­ter two train­ing ses­sions a player can re­ally help you, but he helped us a lot tonight.

“In a very dif­fi­cult game, he could make the dif­fer­ence.”

Manch­ester United striker Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic com­pared his prow­ess to a fine red wine that im­proves with age, and the Swede also claimed he can play for an­other 15 years.

The 35-year-old is his coun­try’s all-time lead­ing scorer and has won topflight ti­tles in four coun­tries in a glittering ca­reer that has in­cluded spells at Ajax, Ju­ven­tus, In­ter Mi­lan, Barcelona, AC Mi­lan and Paris Saint-Ger­main.

He has set­tled well since re­tir­ing as an in­ter­na­tional af­ter leav­ing PSG for United in the sum­mer.

Ibrahimvovic has 16 goals in all com­pe­ti­tions for the Red Devils, 11 in the Premier League.

“The older I get, the bet­ter I get, like red wine. You like red wine? I’m a per­fect ex­am­ple of that,” said Ibrahi­movic, who net­ted twice to earn United a 2-0 win at West Bromwich Al­bion on Satur­day.

“I’m set­tling in. I feel happy, good. Even if I’m 35, in my mind I’m 20. I think I could play at 50, but it’s not down to me.

“I’ve played in dif­fer­ent cham­pi­onships, in dif­fer­ent coun­tries, and you need to adapt your body to the game and the way it’s played here.”

The West Brom vic­tory kept Jose Mour­inho’s United sixth in the Premier League stand­ings.

It be­gins its Christ­mas sched­ule against sec­ond­from-bot­tom Sun­der­land at Old Traf­ford on Dec 26.

DAVE THOMP­SON / AP

Ever­ton’s Ross Barkley (left) and Liver­pool’s Jordan Hen­der­son con­test a header dur­ing their English Premier League match at Good­i­son Park in Liver­pool on Mon­day. The Reds won the Mersey­side derby 1-0 and moved to sec­ond in the stand­ings, six points be­hind leader Chelsea.

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