LEITZER, England … It was not for nothing that Jürgen Klopp regretted publicly questioning Liverpool’s confidence: He shot himself all the way down. There is no other explanation for the seven-minute surrender against Leicester City, in which the Reds let slip a 1-0 lead and lost 3-1 at the King Power Stadium, leaving them with a major battle for fourth place.
Klopp once described his team as “mentality freaks. ” On Saturday, they left Leicester territory like tormented souls. The Liverpool boss paused briefly in his post-match press conference before responding to the question of whether he would concede defeat in the race for the Premier League title.
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“Yeah, I can’t believe it, but yeah,” he said, noting his team is now ten points behind leaders Manchester City with two games to go.
Leicester qualified for the Champions League with another impressive performance, although three of its top four players were eliminated. They should be considered serious contenders, as they are no fluke, alongside their victories over Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal this season. But in some ways, this has made Liverpool’s collapse even more striking.
For 78 minutes they were the better team. Leicester almost always threatened through the counter-attack, but Liverpool constantly put the hosts under pressure, dominating the ball and keeping it under reasonable control.
They scored a beautiful goal. Yuri Thielemans after a pass from Trent Alexander-Arnold. Liverpool pressed and found Roberto Firmino in the penalty area. The Egyptian circumvented Wilfred Ndidi and, with a flowing move, set up Mohamed Salah, who fired past Kasper Schmeichel with a beautiful shot. It was a goal that exuded the mixture of arrogance and class that often characterizes Klopp’s team in its best moments, making the contrast with what followed even more striking.
Leicester saw the penalty kick cancelled when VAR decided Thiago’s tackle on Harvey Barnes was outside the box. As a result, James Maddison fired a free kick into the net, although the goal was scored only after a lengthy VAR study revealed that Daniel Amartey was offside.
Liverpool got cold on a cold day. A reliable Thielemans attacker sowed panic in the defense when center-back Ozan Kabak, making his debut in the first half since leaving Schalke, tried to intercept the ball. He was unaware that goalkeeper Alisson was standing 30 yards away and also trying to clear the ball. The two collided and the ball fell to Vardy, who sent the ball into the empty net amid cheers as he ripped the corner flag off the turf and played it like a guitar.
It was time for an encore when Barnes scored for the third time, leaving Klopp apoplectic on the sidelines with no explanation for the stunning sequence that began with some controversy.
Foul – A specified.confusion between Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and defender Ozan Kabak and Leicester Liverpool goalkeeper Jamie Vardy allowed a goal into an empty net. Paul Ellis – Pool/Getty Images
“I was sure that [the first goal] was offside,” Klopp said. Accepting something like that with a smile or an “OK, maybe it was a mistake” is not easy.
“So, in our situation, definitely not. We worked hard to get ahead 1-0 and then it got out of hand, especially for Ali who had three players in front of him. That’s not a problem. The 2-1 has nothing to do with it.
“2-1 can happen, but when we got a goal against and the way, it was a hard blow. I didn’t like the reaction to that. The reaction after the equalizer, I don’t know exactly because it was too fast. It was a long ball forward and we made it dangerous ourselves”.
Alisson was hesitant to offer unfair criticism after their mistakes in last weekend’s 4-1 loss against Manchester City, given the consistency of the Brazilian’s performances at international level. But he was needlessly frivolous, even as Klopp tried to highlight Kabaka’s lack of training time with his new teammates.
“We all knew before the game that Ozan is a very good player and after the game we knew that, but we also knew before the game that he was not very used to all the things we normally do,” Klopp said. “If he had played with Ali, he would have known that he was quite aggressive in the away game and that was a misunderstanding. When you’re a rookie, these things happen normally in preseason, but we didn’t.
To highlight Liverpool’s defensive problems: Cabac is the seventh player to play in central defense in the league this season, following Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams.
But Liverpool’s problems lie deeper, from physical to mental. Alisson’s mistake was a rejection of the confidence with which he and Liverpool have played in recent years. Restoring that balance is Klopp’s biggest challenge as the damage mounts.
“The only way out is to play good soccer, fight and work hard,” he said. “We have to do that and we will get a result and see how we do in the end. “The situation is not easy, that’s understandable, but it’s our situation and, as always with a situation, you have to solve it yourself. That’s exactly what we’re going to do”.
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