Jürgen Klopp hailed a ‘fantastic performance, even better atmosphere’ after Liverpool roared to a 2-0 victory against Chelsea in the Premier League on Sunday.
The Reds maintained their two-point lead over Manchester City courtesy of a blitz at the beginning of the second half at Anfield, with Sadio Mane’s header followed by a Mohamed Salah screamer.
Post-match, Klopp reflected on the tactical changes that led to Liverpool’s breakthrough after the interval, Salah’s incredible strike, Fabinho’s performance and more.
On what Liverpool changed for the second half…
Just to be a bit more flexible. We speak at half-time, we show a few pictures. A lot of things were really good in the first half already. Little problem – I do it again, I speak about the wind – but in the first half we played against the wind and in the second half we had it at our back and it’s a big plus. You saw it in the second half, Chelsea struggled with the build-up, the balls going high and coming down, it’s just difficult. It was in our favour in the second half and we used that. And we needed to be a bit more flexible on the right flank. In the first half we were a bit left-dominant, we had too many balls there. It was good on the right side, we had moments as well but not as flexible as we wanted.
That was one of the things we spoke about at half-time and it was wonderful that we scored a goal from that situation, Hendo in the box chipping the ball – a fantastic goal. The second goal was a nice strike from Mo obviously, a fantastic goal as well. Apart from the 10 minutes when Chelsea changed system and had their chances, when Ali saved our life, we controlled and dominated the game for 80 minutes, which is probably the best you can say about a game against Chelsea. But in these 10 minutes, if they were 10 minutes, they could have changed the game completely – [hitting the] post and two saves from Ali. That was a bit dangerous, of course, but then we controlled the game again. It was a fantastic performance, an even better atmosphere and a very, very important result.
On how he wanted the team to be more flexible…
It’s about the right side, positioning. You have three players on the right side – Trent, Hendo and Mo. They have to be flexible if the opponent reacts to different things, like movements. Mo can stretch the formation and keep them back, then there’s space for the other two. It’s not too complicated actually.
But if you speak about the left and right flank, I have to say what Bobby, Fabinho and the two centre-halves did against this centre – their two centre-halves, Jorginho and Eden Hazard – was some of the best I ever saw in my life because it is just so difficult. We expected a little bit they would bring Hazard on the No.9 position but still it’s difficult to work that through in training because there are not a lot of players like Eden Hazard and how they do it exactly.
But we denied a lot of situations. If you think about how dangerous it could have been if Eden can control the ball in the centre and then on the right and left wing, Willian and Hudson-Odoi are on their bikes, that would have been really dangerous and difficult to deal with, actually. That was really some of the best. Football-wise, we dominated for long parts of the game. Passing was really good, you need to be patient but direct. I like that game a lot, to be honest.
On Fabinho’s performance…
You have these days when you see from the first second that it’s clicking. Football-wise, we were really in a good moment today, all three midfielders. It was the plan that Hendo is slightly higher and we have this in between the lines, it then gives Fabinho and Naby a bit of different space. It’s not always exactly the same idea, today it was a little bit the idea. From the first moment he was there, football-playing.
And of course, defending this centre – Sarri-ball is not a coincidence, it’s really difficult to play against and there are some good reasons for it. We did it in a really good manner. We didn’t say, Bobby plays against Jorginho, for example. We gave the boys a lot of responsibility in these moments and they dealt with it sensationally.
On Salah’s goal…
It blew me away. I was really happy. I saw it really well; maybe I saw it first the ball would go in. It was a really, really outstanding finish. And I don’t want to minimise that but I loved the first goal exactly the same. It immediately reminded me of the 4-3 against Borussia Dortmund, only Hendo instead of Millie and Sadio instead of Dejan, but a similar situation with this wonderful cross in that area and really good team play. The performance was really good but to really make it happen you need the goals and we got them, all good.
On Liverpool’s big players stepping up…
I said it before when you asked me about any concerns about shape and form, the answer in football – not only for us, for all football players – is always work-rate. The work-rate today, again, of all three up front was outstanding. Chelsea are a top, top, top team. We treat these games and deal with these games like Champions League games and you cannot defend on this level without the offensive wing. It doesn’t work. Everybody uses it, we use it – if somebody plays against us and the wingers are up front, OK, we take that risk. Each top team takes that risk. How the boys worked today was unbelievable and you get the reward for that. You can make an easy goal from a yard or you need to shoot from, what was it, quite a distance and score this thunderbolt.
On Liverpool’s prospects of winning the title…
We see it game by game. We go to Porto now, which will be a tough one, and we will play there as good as possible. We know they get at least two players back – fixed line-up players, very important, Pepe and Herrera coming back makes it a different side. It will be an interesting and difficult challenge. Then we play Cardiff and everybody knows they fight for [staying in] the league, everybody knows it is a tough place to go. We go there and we will try everything to win there. The biggest challenge for us is always facing the world outside – you [journalists] and other people – because we don’t think like that.
Today, they [City] win and [did it] ask a question for us? If we think about them, yes, and if we don’t think about them, no. We play our game. If, for example, City lose today and we know it five minutes before our game, somebody tells us, ‘City lost’, that’s not a help. Then you lose your focus in that moment. What we want to do is collect as many points as possible, really. 85 points, four games to play, that means [we can get] 97. Good, let’s try. Let’s try that. If that’s enough, perfect, and if not, we cannot change it.
We didn’t lose it here or there or in this or that game. Very smart people will come out and say, ‘Yeah, but if you would have won against Leicester then you would be champions now’ and stuff like this. Only weak people bring something like this up. By the way, at this point we can finally close the slipping book – Robbo slipped and nothing happened, so it’s not a Liverpool thing. Done. All good.
I am so proud of what the boys did today, and I loved, loved, loved the atmosphere – it was outstanding what the people did today. You could feel it, they are all on their toes, so let’s try to do that seven more times and then we see what we get for it.