Very Mersey Christmas for Klopp
Dramatic derby puts Reds boss in festive mood
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.
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.