Klopp or­ders Liverpool to cut out de­fen­sive blun­ders

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE - By Arindam Rej at Car­row Road

Jürgen Klopp let out a laugh when he was told that all he needed to do to­mor­row night, to book a cup fi­nal place at Wem­b­ley, was keep a clean sheet.

Liverpool will host Stoke City in their Cap­i­tal One Cup semi-fi­nal with a 1-0 lead from the first leg. Al­though Klopp could see the funny side of that clean-sheet com­ment, the Liverpool man­ager knows there are psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems creep­ing into his team’s de­fence which ur­gently need to be rec­ti­fied.

Of the four goals they leaked in this ex­tra­or­di­nary con­test against Nor­wich City, two orig­i­nated from set-pieces – a cor­ner and a long free-kick.

Stoke are a far more re­fined side th­ese days but their set-piece threat re­mains with height and ag­gres­sion in their ar­moury.

“Maybe we can score five again and they get four – there are lots of ways to get in a fi­nal,” Klopp said, be­fore re­vert­ing to a more se­ri­ous mind­set. “It’s not some­thing I like to make jokes about.”

His tone be­came more sharp as he sent out a mes­sage to his play­ers that they need to change their men­tal­ity. “I was an un­der-av­er­age player but if I could do some­thing, it was de­fend set plays. It’s not that dif­fi­cult. But now, as you saw, it’s like a self-ful­fill­ing prophecy.

“Ev­ery­body is talk­ing about it, we are think­ing about it and you see it in sit­u­a­tions. At se­cond balls, we are think­ing ‘oh my God’. That’s the sit­u­a­tion.”

The flip side was that the goals con­ceded gave Liverpool the chance to show they have the fire­power to fight back in the most chal­leng­ing of cir­cum­stances, cul­mi­nat­ing in the emo­tional scenes af­ter Adam Lal­lana’s win­ning goal in the fifth minute of in­jury time – three min­utes af­ter Nor­wich had lev­elled the score at 4-4. Klopp said: “I’m not sure we would have scored five if we didn’t con­cede four.”

Liverpool’s man­ager was asked if he felt that the sense of be­lief gen­er­ated by this come­back could be a turn­ing point for his side. Klopp quipped that “I feel nearly ev­ery­thing is a turn­ing point – I can go to­mor­row to the toi­let and it’s a turn­ing point.” What he means by that is he sees the pos­i­tives in ev­ery sit­u­a­tion, but his play­ers will now also be more likely to see dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions through rose-tinted spec­ta­cles af­ter com­plet­ing this res­cue mis­sion.

Klopp mem­o­rably had his glasses knocked off in the pan­de­mo­nium that fol­lowed their late win­ner. He thought it was Lal­lana who was the cul­prit – but it was Chris­tian Ben-

teke. Even when he was knock­ing the man­ager’s glasses off, Ben­teke still could not at­tract his boss’s at­ten­tion, hav­ing been left on the bench un­til the fi­nal 15 min­utes.

The Shakhtar Donetsk for­ward Alex Teix­eira, a Liverpool trans­fer tar­get, has de­clared his de­sire to move in this trans­fer win­dow, so Ben­teke should be a wor­ried man. The more mo­bile Roberto Firmino was pre­ferred as a starter up front in this match and he scored twice with deft fin­ishes.

Klopp said Firmino was an­swer­ing crit­ics, who ques­tioned if the Brazil­ian – lack­ing the phys­i­cal pres­ence of Ben­teke – was a striker. “It’s a wide word, ‘striker’, a wide spec­trum,” the for­mer Borus­sia Dort­mund coach said. “Roberto is a striker. He is a very of­fen­sive player. I know a lot of strik­ers that are oneme­tre-60-plus [5ft 3in] in height. Lionel Messi, what is he?”

He de­nied Firmino was ahead of Ben­teke in the peck­ing or­der now, though. “We have so many games that I can’t say ‘ this’ or ‘ this’ is num­ber one,” Klopp said.

Firmino helped his cause by open­ing the scor­ing in this match, but Liverpool then meekly slid 3-1 adrift. The first of those Nor­wich goals came from Liverpool’s poor de­fend­ing of a cor­ner, which al­lowed Dieumerci Mbokani to back­heel the ball in.

Steven Nai­smith then beat Si­mon Mig­no­let from a test­ing an­gle and Nor­wich went on to make the score 3-1 when Al­berto Moreno reck­lessly con­ceded a penalty, al­low­ing Wes Hoola­han to score from the spot.

Liverpool’s fight­back be­gan when Jor­dan Hen­der­son swept the ball in and an equaliser fol­lowed as Firmino dinked in his se­cond. Rus­sell Martin’s hor­rific back-pass then al­lowed James Mil­ner to give Liverpool the lead again.

It looked like Martin’s er­ror would not be costly when Se­bas­tian Bas­song struck to make it 4-4, as Liverpool failed to clear a free-kick, be­fore Lal­lana’s late vol­ley.

Alex Neil, the Nor­wich man­ager, said: “Rus­sell apol­o­gised to the play­ers when he came in. But we are past the stage of be­ing dis­ap­pointed and apol­o­gis­ing for mis­takes. Just don’t make the mis­takes.”

92’ Bas­song looks to have earnt 4-4 hosts a point

95’ Lal­lana grabs last-gasp win 4-5 for Liverpool

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