Klopp insists Liverpool will bounce back
We were the better side and should have beaten Newcastle, says manager
Jürgen Klopp seemed torn between defiance and anxiety after a 1-1 draw at Newcastle United left his Liverpool side in seventh place, seven points behind the leaders, Manchester City.
“We should have won,” Klopp said. “We were the better side and created more chances but you know we have a real problem because we have to play better next game, otherwise we will not get a point.”
After a wonderful Philippe Coutinho goal gave Liverpool the lead, Joselu equalised for Newcastle when Klopp’s centre-halves, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip, allowed a through-ball from the excellent Jonjo Shelvey to bisect them.
“It was a good pass for Newcastle’s goal, at the right moment,” Klopp, whose side have won one just of their past seven games in all competitions, said. “For me it looked like the centre-halves didn’t see the ball with Shelvey because two or three players are in front of them.
“If they see it they have to make a step and Joselu is offside. In the end it is unlucky.”
Liverpool’s manager felt luck had quite a bit to do with the result and remains confident his is about to turn. “We are in very promising situations and we don’t score. That, of course, is a problem but it will not stay like this. I know, I am long enough around football.
“There are different ways to get one win in seven. You can play really bad and lose a lot of games or you play more than a few games really, really good. Most of the games actually we were the better side but a few chances are enough for the opponent to score and we need a lot more and in the end we have had the same number of goals. That happens too often in the last few weeks, of course.
“The boys will go away and we all feel not perfect in that moment and by the way the main problem is not only that football is not fair, people write about it and the boys read it and it makes it even worse. You have a point but it feels like you have lost.”
Not that he agrees confidence has been dented. “I have not seen a drop in confidence from the players,” the manager said. “It is our duty to be confident because the boys have the quality.”
Klopp was frustrated by two particular misses from the disappointing Daniel Sturridge and the impressive Mohamed Salah but said such misses would be corrected. “What is my job? Say, ‘Mo, don’t do that next time and Daniel please have a look next time’? They know that and they will do that next time.
“We have our hard moment now but other teams will have their hard moment. We need to work on our thing and I really think it looks like we are not far away from a real challenge. If we do what we are good at, we don’t have to think about other teams and we will close the gap.”
Rafael Benítez was considerably happier with a point against the club he led to Champions League glory.
“Against a team like Liverpool you have to be happy,” he said. “The lads did a great job and maybe with a bit more composure on the ball we could have scored another goal.”
He was particularly pleased with Shelvey. “Jonjo has the quality on the ball, I told him before the game, you know how to play football, you just have to work hard and keep your head focused.”
Told that Klopp thought Newcastle should have lost, he turned diplomatic. “Sometimes you get what you deserve, sometimes you don’t. We have got a point at home, which isn’t the best, but against one of the top teams you take it.”
At the final whistle Rafael Benítez polished his spectacles and smiled knowingly. Newcastle United’s manager had succeeded in satisfying his current congregation while reminding a much-loved former public precisely what they lost when he left Anfield in 2010.
Liverpool fans rather like Jürgen Klopp but, well before the end, Benítez’s latest successor appeared to have succumbed to apoplexy. Klopp – who at one point could be seen berating Jordan Henderson – knew his side should really have won, especially after they took the lead courtesy of a sublime goal from Philippe Coutinho.
Benítez though is far too good a tactician not to have recognised that Liverpool’s high defensive line was there to be unhinged and duly demonstrated exactly how to do it: Joselu’s equaliser ensured the points were shared.
Yesterday morning Tyneside had woken to reports that an unspecified number of parties, a Chinese consortium included, had signed non-disclosure agreements with Mike Ashley, Newcastle’s owner, ahead of a potential sale. Shortly before kick-off talk turned to a possible Middle Eastern buyout, when the businesswoman Amanda Staveley was spotted at St James’s Park.
Renowned as a deal-maker in football circles, Staveley has close links with Gulf investors and her presence prompted much excited chatter about a potential end to the Ashley regime. It is no secret the sports retail tycoon is anxious to sell up but he is notoriously awkward to do business with and the path to an exchange of contracts could well prove extremely tricky.
This looked a potentially hazardous engagement for Newcastle but, after a minute’s applause for the former chairman Freddy Shepherd, who died last week, and evocative chants of “Rafa Benítez” from both sets of supporters, the home side began brightly.
Considerably less cagey and deep-sitting than might have been expected, Benítez’s team featured two central midfield playmakers in Jonjo Shelvey and Mikel Merino. Shelvey certainly seemed out to impress against his former employers and, from one of his stellar passes, Matt Ritchie’s curling shot forced Simon Mignolet into a routine save.
Klopp’s players really should have scored during one bout of goalmouth bagatelle that involved Gini Wijnaldum, a Newcastle old boy, volleying against a post, Dejan Lovren seeing a shot cleared off the line and Sadio Mané dragging the rebound wide.
Even so, Rob Elliot had very little to do until he picked the ball out of his net in the wake of Coutinho’s splendid opener. Perhaps intent on demonstrating why Liverpool were right to turn down Barcelona’s stratospheric bids for him, Coutinho cut inside from the left and from around 25 yards out, directed a curving, rising right-foot shot through the gap between Elliot’s outstretched hand and the near post.
It was a simply stunning finish – although Shelvey committed the cardinal sin of standing off Coutinho, to Benítez’s evident displeasure.
Klopp had clearly instructed his side to adopt a very high line and it was this tactic that offered Benítez’s players a route back into the game. Just as fans had begun questioning the decision to field Shelvey and Merino together and wondering whether Isaac Hayden was needed to break things up in midfield, Shelvey unleashed a glorious through-ball that bisected Dejan Lovren and Joël Matip to find Joselu.
With Mignolet advancing Joselu dithered alarmingly, permitting Matip to attempt a sliding tackle which merely succeeded in bouncing off the striker’s shin before rolling into the bottom corner.
As goals go it proved quite a contrast to Coutinho’s but highlighted the vulnerability of a Liverpool defence that had earlier looked susceptible in the face of Christian Atsu’s counterattacking pace. Beautifully weighted as Shelvey’s delivery was, there seemed to be acres of space between Lovren and Matip. If Klopp’s much-vaunted pressing game is proving less efficient than usual this season, the imbalance between attack and defence seems a fundamental concern.
It was time for Newcastle to retreat into their highly organised shell, do everything in their power to avoid destablisation by Salah’s quick feet and look to capitalise on the break.
They rode their luck when Ciaran Clark made a hash of clearing a Salah ball, permitting Daniel Sturridge to shoot and Elliot to save with an outstretched foot before Salah volleyed over the bar.
The Egyptian’s expression suggested he knew he should have scored but Sturridge, too, would have expected to do better.
Jürgen Klopp shows his frustration at St James’s Park yesterday.
Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho scores their first goal and only goal at St James’s Park.