Coming off the back of a 7-0 win during the week in the Champions League, beating a team like Everton at home should’ve been a cinch. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
But nothing is ever easy when it comes to Liverpool, and that fact showed up again as they struggled to finish their chances and gave away a key penalty to the visitors on Sunday. Everton traveled across the park to Anfield for the 229th Merseyside Derby amidst the relentless snow and managed to come back with a point, stolen from the likes of Dejan Lovren and the rest of the Reds. To say it was frustrating would be an understatement and manager Jürgen Klopp was sure to make that known in his post-match presser.
“I thought we did everything to win the game,” the manager said when asked about his feelings. He then added, “If somebody would have thought after our last game that we would try to play a little bit of football, then I think everybody saw that the attitude of the boys was outstanding, outstanding tonight; absolutely spot-on, ready for every challenge, ready for everything and playing football against a deep, deeper defending team.
“We forced them into their own box, had our moments. It’s difficult to score a lot, especially when the opponent doesn’t change their style or whatever after they are 1-0 down. That doesn’t make it easier.
“But we controlled the game apart from one situation – and this situation decided the game at the end. That’s what we have to accept.”
With dominant possession and shots taken, it’s anyone’s guess why they were unable to get ahead of Everton for more than half an hour. The gift of the penalty from referee Craig Pawson, though, shouldn’t be underestimated and proved to be a major turning point in the match. Klopp was vocal with his disagreement towards the decision, as well.
“I don’t think it was a penalty. It is like it is. We have to take it,” Klopp continued. “If you all think it is a penalty, then all the other challenges in midfield between Williams and Dom Solanke should have been a free-kick. They weren’t free-kicks but this was a penalty. That’s how it is. We have to take that.
“In the last moment, for me, Calvert-Lewin makes the step in the way of Dejan Lovren but he doesn’t push him or anything, it’s just body contact. That’s how it was in midfield 60 or 70 times, no free-kick there. We have to take that.
“We didn’t get a red card at Stoke which we should have got. Today, it’s a penalty which was not a penalty. It was so close before the end of the game, so that’s how it feels. You asked me how I feel – I told you. That will not change anything.”
The manager made six changes to the lineup once again as well, including replacing Roberto Firmino in front with Dominic Solanke and Philippe Coutinho with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the interest of resting both Brazilians for a bit. Firmino had complained of fatigue earlier in the week and Coutinho had missed training following the match against Spartak, so the decision seemed logical but could’ve lent itself to the Reds’ slip up on Sunday. Klopp himself though, believed the changes were the right tactic in the beginning, with Sadio Mané and Mo Salah remaining in the starting lineup to add some speed to the attack while Jordan Henderson returned to add some broader vision to the midfield.
“I thought before the game, yes. Still yes, even when the result doesn’t show it. We did it in the last six or seven weeks. We do it like this. I’ve said it here, I’ve said it to the boys already, we can change as much as we want when we win the games, but when we don’t win the games I take the blame. I have no problem with that,” said Klopp when asked about the changes.
“The boys who came in were fresh and did a brilliant job; they played, they worked hard. We worked hard, it was a derby, we accepted it, we took it as a derby, it’s a fight. You need to be ready for each challenge – and we were ready for each challenge. We tried everything.
“We could have scored, we had clear chances, half-chances – we had everything you need but we didn’t use it, that’s how it is and we know that. It was always clear a day like this could happen – we wanted to win 1-0 and we didn’t.”
There’s no question that for once Klopp’s frustration mirrors that of everyone else that’s part of the club. But with games coming thick and fast right now there is little time to dwell on what didn’t go our way and more time necessary to right the mistakes made by the team. Klopp may take the blame for the draw but it’s the whole squad that has the work to do to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again.
“I was really happy with the performance of the team, that’s how it is. They played well. Can they play better? Yes. But it’s an intense time. Ask everybody who played during the week, it’s intense what we’re doing, so that’s why we made changes. We thought we needed fresh legs – that’s what we had and we could have won it. We didn’t, so – as I said – blame me.”