LONDON • Jurgen Klopp has praised Daniel Sturridge's impact off the bench in Liverpool's 1-0 Premier League win at local rivals Everton on Monday, after the oft-injured striker's opportunistic shot bounced off the post to set up Sadio Mane's stoppage-time winner.
Sturridge, back from a calf injury, was sent on in the 80th minute and, as the match drifted into added time, he held off Leighton Baines to fire a shot through a crowd of defenders.
It hit the inside of the right-hand post, and rebounded into the path of the onrushing Mane to tap home.
"When you have Daniel on the bench, you are always thinking about when is the right time to bring him on," Klopp said.
"It is an unusual situation but, at the same time, a good option when you can bring on his fresh legs when the game is so tight. He helped us a lot tonight in a difficult game."
Everton manager Ronald Koeman acknowledged that Liverpool's late substitutions had made a difference, bemoaning his own luck in having to make two enforced substitutions relatively early in the game.
"We lost James McCarthy and then our goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, so when you then have to endure eight minutes of added time, it makes it difficult," he said.
Times out of four Chelsea won the Premier League when they led at Christmas - in 2004-05, 2005-06, 2009-10 and 2014-15.
Christmas Day runners-up in the table went on to clinch the title since 1995 - when the number of teams was reduced to the present-day 20.
Out of the last 7 leaders going into the festive period ultimately became champions.
"It was a cruel way to lose, the fans and the players did not deserve a defeat tonight but we have to accept it. I can't complain about the efforts of my players, maybe we just needed to be more lucky.
"It was a tough game for both. Liverpool were more comfortable in the second half but they did not create open chances. They had more possession then, showed some good movement.
"They are some team."
Liverpool created more chances than their opponents, with 11 shots compared to Everton's six, but Divock Origi and Roberto Firmino failed to accept a couple of good ones either side of the interval.
"We had our moments," Klopp added. "We could have been ahead before added time but the main thing in a match like this is not to give too many chances away and we didn't.
"Of course it was not the best football in the world but you have to take it like it is. We stayed cool in the first half and improved in the second."
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson was involved in one of the game's moments of controversy in the second half, when a terrible attempt at a tackle by Ross Barkley left him writhing in agony clutching his ankle.
The Everton midfielder was booked for the challenge and many thought he deserved to see a red card, yet Henderson was prepared to be generous.
"We shook hands after the final whistle and Ross apologised straight away," he said.
"Thankfully I am all right. I think it was just mistimed rather than malicious. I know Ross very well. He's a mate actually and he's a good lad. I don't think he would do something like that on purpose."
Klopp also said he was relieved to keep a second successive clean sheet and is looking forward to celebrating Christmas on a high.
"I'm really happy," said the German, who was experiencing his first trip to Goodison Park.
"We now have 37 points and that's good. It could have been 40-something but that's okay.
"We won't stop. Tomorrow is our Christmas party and this is the first party we have had after a win.
"It's unbelievably close and difficult each week but it is still like this. You need to be ready for each game, play your best and collect the points." THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS,