EPL

Klopp warns Liverpool players: We learn, or we don't play Champions League

By Sports Desk April 24, 2021

Jurgen Klopp issued a warning to his Liverpool players after their Premier League top-four hopes were hit by the concession of an injury-time equaliser against Newcastle United, declaring: "We learn, or we don't play Champions League."

The Reds headed into stoppage time having found the back of the net with just one of their 22 shots on the visitors' goal across a one-sided game at Anfield - Mohamed Salah's well-taken third-minute strike.

The hosts were given a huge let-off by VAR in the 92nd minute when a Callum Wilson equaliser was - somewhat harshly but correctly - ruled out for handball after he had bundled home from close range.

But Klopp's men failed to heed that warning, and surrendered two points with almost the final kick of the game as Joe Willock powered the ball home after finding space.

Reflecting on the performance, Liverpool's manager told BT Sport: "I don't think you can create much more chances, better chances than we did and not finish the game. 

"Obviously we scored a wonderful goal, didn't finish the game off, and didn't play enough. With a few passes, we came always through, you just have to do it again and again. 

"That they have from time to time a counterattack, that can happen, you just have to keep playing and keep the ball and let them run. 

"We kept them alive and in the end they deserve the goal because they scored two minutes before another one which is - with the new rules - unlucky handball. 

"Then we don't even take this present! It didn't happen a lot that we were lucky with VAR this season but we were and then we give another chance away, it makes no sense. It's really tough to take."

Klopp went on to suggest that his players were guilty of letting their heads drop too easily after missing chances to add to their lead.

He also lamented a failure to keep possession away from Newcastle in the final moments of the game.

He continued: "Why it happened, I don't know. How it looked, I saw. We just have to keep the ball. 

"In the specific way, we don't fight enough. When we make a mistake, we fight and try to get it back and stuff like this, but [you need] to keep yourself in a position to dominate the game which was possible. 

"We had 70% of the ball and we should have 80. There are still moments when Newcastle, they are not bothered about that and they have a counterattack in these moments and you have a goalie and you have to defend it, that's all fine. 

"We created a lot of chances, didn't score with them, we have to create more and use them. In our situation, when you score with the first but not with the second or the third it has this kind of impact that you see that it drops there a little bit, here a little bit. 

"Instead of just going and who cares? Missed chances are just information, nothing else. But we don't do that well in the moment, I have to say, that's why I say in the end it's deserved. 

"People can look at the stats and think how can that happen? But it happened, we saw it, they fought for it and got it and we got nothing pretty much. Well, a point, but it feels like a defeat."

Liverpool would have moved up into the fourth and final Champions League spot with victory over Newcastle, but now sit in sixth ahead of many of their rivals playing.

On the prospect of qualifying for Europe's top competition, the German added: "If you deserve it, you deserve it. I didn't see today that we deserve to play Champions League next year. 

"We have another five games, we will see what we can do until then, we have a few days until we play Manchester United so it will be a tough one again. But we learn, or we don't play Champions League."

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    "I didn't see the incident," the 36-year-old said. "Obviously he's going to be disappointed with that and it's down to us to get round him and rally. I'm sure he'll learn from it.

    "I think the reaction [from the team] was the most important thing. The team reacted very, very well and the ground reacted very well – as they always do – they got right behind us and we could've nicked a winner. It wasn't to be but we move on.

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    The Uruguayan had already endured a frustrating home debut after having five shots with none on target, before seeing red both figuratively and literally just before the hour as he threw his head into Joachim Andersen's face after the Dane shoved him.

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    Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Klopp said Nunez knew he made a mistake, but added he will have to get used to the physicality of defending in the Premier League and react accordingly.

    "He knows that now himself [that he made a mistake] and I will talk to him," the Reds boss said. "It doesn't make too much sense that I speak about it in public. It is absolutely not the reaction you want to see. Centre halves in the Premier League will do that to him, he's a handful himself and yeah, that's not the reaction."

    Klopp was happier with the contribution of his other South American forward, Diaz, whose goal brought Anfield to life as the hosts tried to force a winner, with Mohamed Salah and substitute Fabio Carvalho both hitting volleys narrowly wide in the closing stages.

    "Luis played a super game, especially after the goal, he played like three or four players," Klopp added. "Incredible goal and of course, we needed that, then we had from the edge [of the penalty area] two nice opportunities, one with Fabio, one with Mo, but in the end it's a point."

    The German coach was philosophical despite the fact his team still await their first win of the season, and already sit four points behind rivals Manchester City in the Premier League table.

    Klopp has a number of players missing through injury, including Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip, meaning Nat Phillips had to start in defence with Joe Gomez only fit enough for a late cameo from the bench, while Thiago Alcantara, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino are also currently unavailable.

    "[A point is] not exactly what we wanted before the game of course but after this game and all the things that happened, we have to take it," he said.

    "Honestly, the real feeling I have in the moment is I'm proud. Everything that went against us in the week is crazy, it was like a witch was in the building. Every time somebody else had [injury] problems, and putting in such a performance, especially in the circumstances, I am really proud of that."

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