Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insisted under-fire goalkeeper Adrian was not to blame for the Premier League champions' 7-2 humbling against Aston Villa.

It was a forgettable outing for Liverpool, who conceded seven goals in a game for the first time since a 7-2 defeat to Tottenham in April 1963.

Liverpool were without first-choice goalkeeper Alisson due to a shoulder injury and the visitors were put to the sword in stunning fashion at Villa Park, where Ollie Watkins scored a first-half hat-trick on Sunday.

Back-up keeper Adrian was forced to collect the ball from his own net within four minutes after his wayward pass to Joe Gomez was seized upon by Villa captain Jack Grealish, who squared for Watkins to slot home. 

Grealish had a brace and there were goals for John McGinn and Villa debutant Ross Barkley, while Reds star Mohamed Salah scored on either side of the break as Liverpool became the first reigning English top-flight champions to concede seven goals in a league match since Arsenal against Sunderland in 1953.

Afterwards, Klopp leapt to the defence of Adrian following confirmation that Alisson will not return for the Merseyside derby against Everton on October 17.

"Not only because of tonight, it's now easy and people are like this – I'm not sure if journalists are like this as well – but now people will go for Adrian and stuff like this," Klopp told reporters.

"Yes, the first goal was not cool, of course. But apart from that, I don't think he had anything to do with all the other goals pretty much. We didn't help him tonight, let me say it like this, or we even did the opposite. He's a really good goalie who played 11 [Premier League] games for us last year and I think we won pretty much all of them.

"It's all fine. Our goalie was not the problem [against Villa]. Only around the first goal. And the reaction for that first goal was not his problem, that was then our problem. We have to do that better, we can do that better."

Klopp added: "It's quite strange when you see a game like this, not that I saw these games like 20 times from my team, I see all these things and I'm old enough to know strange things can happen in life and in football.

"But I saw all the things that happened tonight and I know that if you lose the decisive challenges you will lose football games. We did that tonight. If you protect your own offensive stuff not properly, you will get in trouble. And we got in trouble tonight. And all these things happened tonight. You could see in moments – and I don't think I had to say that a lot – but tonight in different challenges Aston Villa definitely wanted it more than us.

"That's something I saw and I don't like obviously, but now the boys go to their national teams and when they come back – hopefully healthy, all of them – then we have two days' time to prepare the Everton game and then we have the chance to do better."

Jurgen Klopp refused to blame Adrian for Liverpool's loss to Atletico Madrid, but admitted the goalkeeper's mistake had a "big impact".

Liverpool's Champions League defence came to an end on Wednesday after a 3-2 extra-time loss at Anfield sealed a 4-2 aggregate success for Atletico.

But the Premier League giants appeared on track for the quarter-finals after goals from Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino, only for a poor clearance from Adrian to lead to Marcos Llorente's goal for Atletico.

Llorente added a second before Alvaro Morata's late sealer as Liverpool were beaten at home in the Champions League for the first time since 2014.

Despite Adrian's mistake, Klopp was unwilling to blame the shot-stopper, but said the 33-year-old was aware of his error.

"He's a man and he knows that's how it is," the Liverpool manager told a news conference.

"We will not blame him for a second – what you do, I don't know, but stay respectful, that would be really nice because he didn't want to do that, he saved us in so many moments when he played. Since he's here, he had super performances.

"This goal didn't help tonight but that's how it is. I said, if you lose a game you always lose for some [different] reasons. Tonight, this was not the moment when we lost the game, but it had a big impact.

"We should not say it was not like this because it was obvious, but that's it. We conceded more goals after that and we didn't score the goals in other situations. We had plenty of reasons why we didn't go through.

"How it is in life, especially when your job is in public, people judge you. But he's a man, a grown man, and he will deal with that. We will help him with that but I don't think he needs it, to be honest."

Manchester City are reportedly lining up a move for Lionel Messi in a free transfer amid the star's troubles at Barcelona.

Messi, 32, has been involved in a public disagreement with the club's technical secretary Eric Abidal, leading to immediate questions over his future at Camp Nou.

City, and former boss Pep Guardiola, look ready to make their move.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY EYE MESSI FOR FREE AMID BARCELONA TROUBLES

Manchester City will swoop for Messi for free if the star cannot resolve his problems at Barcelona, according to The Sun.

While Messi is contracted until 2021, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu confirmed last year the Argentina international was free to leave after the 2019-20 season.

Messi worked with Guardiola at Barcelona, with the duo winning three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns among numerous other trophies at the club.

ROUND-UP

- There could be major changes coming at Arsenal. The Sun reports Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil are at risk with Arsenal perhaps prepared to sell their stars to finance a spending spree.

- Manchester United and Chelsea are set to go head-to-head in a bid to sign Lyon forward Moussa Dembele at the end of the season, according to The Mirror. Dembele, 23, has scored 12 Ligue 1 goals in 22 matches this season and has been linked with a move to Old Trafford previously.

- Staying in Manchester and City must wait until April to resolve the future of Leroy Sane after the attacker's switch of agent, according to The Telegraph and Bild. Sane is a reported target for Bayern Munich and Manchester City will have to wait to discuss the Germany international's future due to a clause in his deal with his previous agency.

- With Ousmane Dembele facing a long spell on the sidelines, Barcelona are eyeing Girona forward Cristhian Stuani, according to Deportes Cuatro, which reports the 33-year-old Uruguayan has a €20million release clause. Barca would need approval to complete the deal outside the transfer window.

- Could Liverpool have to search for a new back-up goalkeeper? Estadio Deportivo reports Real Betis are considering a move for their former shot-stopper Adrian, who is contracted to the European champions until 2021, with the club holding an option for a further year.

Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold emphasised the value of results over performances following another narrow Premier League victory.

Virgil van Dijk scored two first-half goals, but the title favourites were made to work for Saturday's 2-1 triumph over Brighton and Hove Albion.

Alisson's dismissal for handling the ball outside his box led to a nervy final 15 minutes for substitute goalkeeper Adrian, who saved at full stretch from Aaron Mooy and almost spilled a tame Pascal Gross header into his own net.

Seven of Liverpool's past nine top-flight fixtures have been won by the Reds by a single-goal margin, the exceptions being a 1-1 draw with Manchester United and the 3-1 victory against Manchester City.

But having surged 11 points clear of Pep Guardiola's City side, Alexander-Arnold was paying little thought to the manner of the victory.

"We haven't performed the way we wanted to, but the run we're on is really good," Alexander-Arnold told Liverpool's website.

"We've managed to get another three points, which is important. For us, it's about keeping the momentum up and trying to stretch that run on.

"[It was] a difficult day for us, probably one of the most difficult games we've had at Anfield so far this season. They played really well and executed their game plan.

"But we managed to score two set-pieces and that was massive for us. We know how big a three points that was today."

Alisson's red card means 32-year-old Adrian will have to deputise in Wednesday's Merseyside derby.

Alexander-Arnold insisted he and his team-mates have full faith in the experienced Spaniard.

"We have had setbacks throughout the course of the season, we have had injuries and suspensions," the right-back said.

"We'll be looking to Adrian to come in and do a shift for us like he did at the start of the season.

"We've all got the trust in him and he knows how good he is as a 'keeper and how much we need him. So he'll be raring to go. It's not too much of a blow when you know you've got such a quality 'keeper waiting in the ranks."

Jurgen Klopp hailed the contribution of substitute goalkeeper Adrian to a "special win" after Liverpool beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1 despite the late dismissal of Alisson.

Two first-half headers from Virgil van Dijk put the Premier League's runaway leaders on course for a routine success on Saturday, but Liverpool ended up hanging on at Anfield after Alisson was sent off in the 76th minute for handling outside his penalty area.

Adrian was caught out from the resulting free-kick as Lewis Dunk drilled the ball home with the keeper out of position and still setting up his wall.

However, the hosts still claimed three points - equalling their record unbeaten top-flight run in the process - as Adrian denied Aaron Mooy and then avoided embarrassment by regathering the ball after a weak Pascal Gross header had squirmed out of his grasp.

"I'm pretty sure Virgil, of course, with the two goals is probably man of the match, but Adrian is for me man of the match," said Reds manager Klopp.

"Because coming in, in a game like this, and making two saves. One was tricky. And even the goalie kicks, of course, are difficult and anybody who ever did that with completely cold feet, it's just not possible.

"We should have probably done that differently but we were not prepared for that situation, so I am completely happy."

Klopp was seemingly less enamoured that Dunk's goal stood, adding: "I think when you have a little bit of sense for human beings, you don't do it like this.

"It was very clever, of course, of Brighton, but a goalie is coming in, setting the wall, trying to get in contact with the players, and they are all trying to settle a little bit and get used, in a second, to each other.

"He [the referee] let it go like this. He's happy with that and I cannot change it but for me it's not 100 per cent right."

Liverpool's determination not to drop points did delight Klopp, who said: "The boys threw everything on the pitch. I love that. It's unbelievable how much the boys want to win and so it made it a really special win.

"Brighton are a really good football-playing side. They had a lot of possession. We had to work really hard against that and I love that the boys were ready to do that in such an intense week." 

The result means Liverpool are 11 points clear at the top of the table, albeit Leicester City can cut that lead when they face Everton on Sunday.

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