Sometimes things don’t go according to plan.
Conceding a goal to notoriously defensive Atletico Madrid within the first four minutes certainly wasn’t part of the plan. Having key attacker Sadio Mane pick up a yellow after 40 minutes, and then having Atleti spend every ounce of energy in order to get him sent off before the half wasn’t part of the plan. Having captain Jordan Henderson going down with an apparent hamstring injury wasn’t part of the plan.
The net result of all of the above was two unplanned, non-tactical subs, a 1-0 loss, and a frustrating 90 minutes in Madrid.
“Obviously the plan was to get Sadio out of the game with a yellow card,” Jurgen Klopp explained after the match.
“I was afraid his opponent would go down even if Sadio takes a deep breath or whatever, so I didn’t want to have that situation. That’s why we took him off.”
This was a reasonable fear for anyone watching the match. Sadio had not one, but two “incidents” immediately following his yellow. The first was where the Atleti defender wrapped him up in the box, and then appealed for a yellow for simulation when Mane went to ground. The second came from a completely innocuous 50/50 challenge on a header, where the Atletico player went to ground as if shot.
In both cases the crowd and Atletico players were hounding the ref for a second yellow and red to be produced. The players continued this “discussion” with the ref into the tunnel at halftime.
Kloppo’s hand was forced: lose Mane for the second half, or lose Mane sometime in the second half (thereby going down to ten men) AND lose him for the return leg at Anfield. Step right up, Divock Origi.
As for the other planned substitution, Henderson, we will have to wait to see how bad his injury is.
“Hendo felt his hamstring, unfortunately. We have to wait. He was not too concerned but enough to go off obviously.”
Although the word “hamstring” is a bit worrisome, hopefully it was more of a precaution. With three weeks until the return fixture, it should give the captain a chance to be fit if it’s not too severe.
Both subs greatly reduced Klopp’s ability to impact the match from the bench. Sometimes an injury can represent an opportunity to completely change the game—see Georginio Wijnaldum coming on for Andy Robertson against Barcelona last year. Last night was not one of those occasions.
There was also the Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Mohamed Salah sub in there, which was weird and not terribly effective, but that’s a story for another post.