Another day, another VAR-ce.
This time though, it didn’t cost Liverpool, as they showed dogmatic resilience to overcome a surprisingly upbeat Sheffield United, despite being far from the irresistible form and slick quality which made them Champions.
For Jurgen Klopp, sometimes it is a different strength which is required to win trophies over a long season. Mental strength. His side entered this game after losing their talisman Virgil van Dijk, and without their other first choice centre-half Joel Matip.
They were facing opponents who, through the brilliantly combative skills of Ollie McBurnie, posed a devastating threat. The makeshift pairing of Joe Gomez and Fabinho did not win a single header against him in the first half, and that tends to lose you games.
Somehow though, Liverpool won. Despite another ridiculous VAR decision which gave the visitors a penalty – converted by Sander Berge – when Fabinho so clearly won the ball, and despite an aerial frailty that will have the rest of the Premier League licking their lips.
For Klopp, it is a sign that his team will keep finding a way. This wasn’t just a fight against Sheffield United, it was a fight to show they still have enough to overcome their weakness, and remain in the title race.
“We had to dig deep, and the boys did and that is so important. Look, it’s nice to win a football game 3-0 and stroll through it, no problems,” he explained.
“But that only happens when you are ready to fight in games like this, to really fight hard. On nights like this you earn the right to win those other games. And that is why I love this game so much.”
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The point the manager is making, is that Liverpool had to come through this, to ensure that every other opponent they face going forward, still respects them, and their threat, instead of concentrating on their weakness, as teams did so often in the pre-Klopp era.
And what a threat they do have. He played with almost a 4-2-4 formation to accommodate the talent of Diogo Jota, whose winning goal, after Roberto Firmino had levelled before the break, proved the worth of such an audacious set up…eventually.
In reality, Liverpool were hopelessly wide open, as the manager conceded. “We had all four players wanting the ball in behind the last line, and it is like, we did not have any midfielders!”
And Jota himself, while scoring, looked a fair way off understanding the system and what is required of him, and Klopp gently pointed out.
“Yes, Diogo scored a super goal and was really involved in the game. But he can be much better, 100 per cent, and that’s good news,” he said.
“He is still adapting. In the moment, a lot of things we do are not natural to him but that’s only because Wolves play different – but a lot of things he did for Wolves are exactly what we want him to do.
“That he is close already is just a sign how good a player he is. If he stays fit, he’s 23 and the future is bright, let me say it like this. We will need his quality and I am really happy that he settled nicely so far.”
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