It was a shambolic first half team performance that paved the way for Liverpool’s slide out of the F.A. Cup fourth-round, but defender Joël Matip has insisted that his error was the killing blow. This came as manager Jürgen Klopp - who tends not to shine too harsh a light on his own players’ failings - was particularly blunt in his assessment of the back four’s failings on Saturday.
“We started in front, our offensive play was okay, but in the defence we had problems,” said Matip after the match, focusing on his own goal that put the visitors two goals up just before the break. “Mistakes like my one kill every team. This mistake cannot happen, I have to clear this ball.”
“In the first half, [conceding] three goals, it hurts every team,” added the defender. “It was really hard to come back then. We tried the whole time but it’s really hard against a deep-standing team.”
There’s not much to disagree with in Matip’s summary. While West Brom’s third goal, courtesy of Matip’s error, did leave Liverpool with a mountain to climb in the second half, the defender was far from the sole culprit. Save for Georginio Wijnaldum, Liverpool’s midfield struggled to track West Brom’s counterattackers. When they tried to do so, they left the flanks woefully exposed for the visitors to exploit.
Things looked more stable when Liverpool tweaked their formation in the second half, but by then West Brom were able to focus more on closing up shop, which they did effectively, notwithstanding Mohamed Salah’s 78th minute goal. This doesn’t change the fact that the central defence - which was supposed to have been solidified by the big money acquisition of Virgil van Dijk - has looked out of sorts recently.
“We have to do everything to turn things [around], to get in better shape and get better results,” said Matip, looking ahead instead of back. Next up for Liverpool is a league match against Huddersfield, and unfortunately, the refrain from Matip is an increasingly familiar one.