On Tuesday night, Liverpool had the opportunity to go through to the last 16 in spectacular fashion. Up three goals at half-time, we were flying against Sevilla. Sevilla, though, had not lost at home in 366 days and close to the end of the first half started to show signs of grit and getting themselves back into the game.
We live in a world with a certain structure. There are leaders - the presidents, CEOs, managers and coaches. And then, there are the people. Certain decisions can only be made by those in charge. Over the last few days I have read numerous comments about whose fault it is that Liverpool squandered their half-time lead on Tuesday, causing Sevilla to pull a mini-Istanbul on us. It is fascinating that almost no one has laid any blame squarely at Klopp’s feet.
No leader is infallible
Players can only do what they can, with their individual levels of expertise. Expecting our front three to play defensively is rather presumptuous when they are attacking players.
It is important to note that Sevilla have not scored in the last half hour of any of their last eight games. Having played Sevilla twice before this and being very aware that they can come back in the second half to equalise or clinch a potential win, one must beg the question; why did we not start the second half defensively to protect our three-goal lead?
Alberto Moreno’s role
Let me start with this - I like Alberto Moreno and he has really grown this season by working hard which has greatly impressed me and many other supporters. However, just as no one is infallible, no one is perfect and as his manager, Klopp should by now be fully aware of each member of his squad’s qualities as well as their shortcomings. Moreno is a hard worker, but expecting him to play a full 90 minutes at Champions League level against his former club was irresponsible. He was also given a yellow card at 38’ and thus in my view, should not have started the second half given our lead.
That second half
As mentioned earlier in this article, Sevilla have not scored in the last half hour of any of their last eight games. With this knowledge along with our impressive lead, Liverpool should have started the second half with James Milner and Emre Can, setting up a more defensive line-up. Instead, what followed was a shambolic 18 minutes. As soon as the second half starting whistle blew, Sevilla controlled the game. The tempo went completely haywire as they began to press us and with an all-attack side, we could not bring it back down. Yet, Klopp waited until 63’ to become more defensive despite Ben Yedder’s first goal against us taking place at 51’, followed by Moreno’s error which gave away the penalty that ultimately saw the home side add their second goal at 60’.
Let’s face it, Klopp is stubborn
Loris Karius had a decent game on Tuesday night. However, Klopp’s insistence to play him seems almost juvenile, given how crucial this match was. Starting an unchanged side after Saturday’s win against the Saints would have been more sensible.
More than that though, starting the second half defensively would have been the way to go on Tuesday night, especially after Liverpool and Klopp’s experiences facing a formidable Sevilla side twice in the past seven months.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing but often it’s a matter of too little, too late. Here’s hoping that our beloved Klopp has finally learnt from that before our next Champions League outing against Spartak Moskova, and that he finally accepts that being stubborn rarely, if ever, wins football matches.