Daily Mail

An­other tro­phy but Reds must tighten up fast

- DO­MINIC KING @Do­minicKing_DM Sports · Soccer · Liverpool Football Club · Jürgen Klopp · Liverpool · Belgium · Boston · South Bend · Geneva · Iceland · Belarus · Manchester City Football Club · Manchester · Europe · FC Barcelona · Barcelona · Lionel Messi · Madrid · Tottenham Hotspur Football Club · Chelsea F.C. · Christian Pulisic · Frank Lampard · Chelsea · Joe Gomez · Norwich City F.C. · Norwich, CT · Vanuatu · Joel Matip · United Nations · Austria · Pedro · UEFA Champions League · Bradford · Lake Geneva · Mohamed Salah · Tammy Abraham

THERE has been an un­der­ly­ing theme to Jur­gen Klopp’s words this sum­mer. In his quest to take Liver­pool for­ward, he has con­tin­ued to re­peat one key phrase: let us be the team that no­body wants to face.

From Brad­ford to Bos­ton, South Bend to the shores of Lake Geneva, there has been no am­bi­gu­ity in Klopp’s mantra — he knows the only way Liver­pool will chal­lenge for the big­gest hon­ours again is by recre­at­ing their miserly ways of last sea­son.

For all the fo­cus on their front three, Liver­pool went the dis­tance with Manchester City and be­came cham­pi­ons of Europe be­cause they boasted the best de­fence.

Ev­ery time they needed a clean sheet, they got one; Klopp coined the phrase ‘men­tal­ity monsters’ be­cause they de­fended with their lives.

Think about it: the ex­tra­or­di­nary es­capol­ogy against Barcelona in the semi-fi­nal be­came pos­si­ble be­cause they shut out Lionel Messi and com­pany; they clinched

the tro­phy in Madrid be­cause they built a wall against which Spurs’ frus­trated for­wards, ul­ti­mately, could only bang their heads.

Back in an­other Euro­pean fi­nal, you won­dered what has changed in the last 75 days. Liver­pool’s only clean sheet in seven pre- sea­son friendlies was against League One neigh­bours Tran­mere and that por­ous form has con­tin­ued since the real busi­ness started.

You can dis­miss friendlies as not hav­ing any rel­e­vance but Klopp is a per­fec­tion­ist. His style of play is in­tri­cate and Liver­pool only be­come po­tent if ev­ery cog is per­fectly aligned. For long parts of a stuffy and un­com­fort­able night, ev­ery­thing was out of kil­ter. Chelsea ran amok down Liver­pool’s right flank, par­tic­u­larly in the first 45 min­utes, and could have had the con­test tucked up, with Chris­tian Pulisic cap­i­tal­is­ing on wide-open spa­ces.

Frank Lam­pard set his team up per­fectly. They pressed high and N’Golo Kante was out­stand­ing. Have no fears about Lam­pard in man­age­ment — he sold ev­ery­one a dummy in pre-match, sug­gest­ing Kante wouldn’t be fit. He wasn’t just fit. He was man of the match.

You had to have sym­pa­thy for Lam­pard, who will have en­joyed much of what he saw from his team. Would Klopp have been the same? Not so much. Each time the TV cam­eras cut to him, he was ei­ther in deep con­ver­sa­tion with his as­sis­tants or stand­ing open­mouthed about how eas­ily Chelsea were danc­ing through.

Joe Gomez, who started the Com­mu­nity Shield and Premier League opener against Nor­wich along­side van Dijk, was shifted out to full-back but he got no pro­tec­tion from Mo­hamed Salah and was of­ten left ex­posed. It was no sur­prise Chelsea opened the scor­ing af­ter ex­ploit­ing that chan­nel.

There were, how­ever, other prob­lems. Joel Matip, for in­stance, had a dread­ful time with his dis­tri­bu­tion, the tone for his dis­play was set when he gave the first ball from kick-off straight to Chelsea. Anx­i­ety is a key point. This was the first ma­jor game Liver­pool have played with­out Alis­son be­tween the posts since the 2018 Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal and they looked 10 per cent off what they should be.

It is not a crit­i­cism of Adrian, who came to his team’s res­cue in the 32nd minute with a tremen­dous save at the feet of Mateo Ko­vacic hav­ing pushed a thun­der­ing drive from Pe­dro onto the bar 10 min­utes ear­lier.

Straight away, though, you can see the dif­fer­ences: the fact he will stand six yards deeper than the Brazil­ian or pick the ball up when it comes back to him (Alis­son al­ways uses his feet to main­tain the tempo).

You knew Alis­son would not have made the rash chal­lenge that en­abled Tammy Abra­ham to win Chelsea a penalty in ex­tra-time.

He did re­deem him­self in the shootout with the de­ci­sive stop from Abra­ham but it would be ridicu­lous to say Liver­pool have a like-for-like re­place­ment.

Alis­son is not just a mighty phys­i­cal pres­ence but he also set­tles nerves. Liver­pool, for long pe­ri­ods, looked like they were liv­ing on their wits and van Dijk was so frus­trated he con­tin­u­ally jab­bered at those around him, re­mind­ing that stan­dards had slipped.

He knows — as Klopp does — that this is not the Liver­pool way.

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Firing home: Mane lev­els to make it 1-1 early in the sec­ond half
GETTY IMAGES Firing home: Mane lev­els to make it 1-1 early in the sec­ond half
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