Klopp in­sists Liverpool will bounce back

We were the bet­ter side and should have beaten New­cas­tle, says man­ager

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - Louise Tay­lor at St James’ Park

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.

Bet­ter side

“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.”

Frus­trated

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.”

Fo­cused

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.

Haz­ardous

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.

Slid­ing tackle

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.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: CARL RECINE/AC­TION IMAGES VIA REUTERS

Jür­gen Klopp shows his frus­tra­tion at St James’s Park yes­ter­day.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: SCOTT HEPPELL/REUTERS

Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho scores their first goal and only goal at St James’s Park.

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