Reds have fire in their bellies

Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates after scoring an equaliser against Liverpool. His joint league-leading 14th goal this season demonstrated all his athleticism, power and poise, as the Swede twisted in the air to get some unlike
Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates after scoring an equaliser against Liverpool. His joint league-leading 14th goal this season demonstrated all his athleticism, power and poise, as the Swede twisted in the air to get some unlikely headed power on to a cross from Antonio Valencia.PHOTO: REUTERS

Klopp rues United equaliser but expects his side to return to winning ways at Plymouth

LONDON • Jurgen Klopp insists Liverpool will use the frustration of their dramatic 1-1 Premier League draw with Manchester United to avoid FA Cup humiliation at fourth-tier Plymouth tomorrow.

Klopp's side were denied a memorable victory over bitter rivals United when Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed a late equaliser at Old Trafford on Sunday.

James Milner's first-half penalty had put the Reds in front. But they could not add a killer second goal and paid the price when Ibrahimovic struck in the 84th minute to leave Liverpool in third place - seven points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea.

It was a painful lesson in the value of a lethal forward, something Liverpool have sorely missed for much of the season, and especially during their run of four games without a win in all competitions.

One of those draws came against plucky Plymouth. They took advantage of Klopp's decision to rest all his established stars and send out Liverpool's youngest ever line-up in a 0-0 third-round encounter at Anfield earlier this month.

But the Reds boss is confident his squad will recover from their blip sooner rather than later, starting with winning the FA Cup replay tomorrow.

"A lot of people thought playing United was a decisive game for the rest of the season. That's rubbish," said the German.

"We went there to win the game which is why we are not 100 per cent satisfied...

"It was a wild game. I hoped we would have a bit of luck, unfortunately not but it's all good. I can enjoy the result today and the performance tomorrow."

United manager Jose Mourinho was not too pleased as well and has called on his players to stop spurning chances.

Only seven of United's 32 Premier League goals this season have been scored in the first 35 minutes and the Portuguese wants his team to stop letting their opponents off the hook.

"We are having this problem for the whole season," he told reporters at Old Trafford.

"We start matches normally very, very well but we don't score many goals in the first half of the matches. Normally the first big occasion, the goalkeeper makes a phenomenal save.

"And then Paul (Pogba) is in the face of the 'keeper and missed the target. We have always chances to be in front and it costs us (not) to score goals."

He added that his bust-up with Klopp was because the visiting manager believed he tried to have Roberto Firmino sent off.

The incident occurred late in the match when Ander Herrera grabbed the jersey of the Brazil forward, who retaliated by pushing the United midfielder on the floor.

The referee, Michael Oliver, gave a yellow card to both players for the incident. Yet it caused Klopp and Mourinho to have a furious exchange that culminated with the German shaking off the Portuguese's pat.

The United manager said: "He thought I was asking for his player to be sent off. I wasn't. There was no problem at all.

"I think the players gave everything but in an emotional and professional way so the referee did very well in that part of the game - emotional and in control of good professionals. There was aggression but it was good."

Klopp had a different take, saying: "He (Mourinho) wanted the minimum of a yellow card, I don't know.

"Roberto is a footballer from head to toe and he wanted to stay in the game. He could have passed the ball and that was a yellow card for Herrera and nothing else.

"In the end it was a yellow card for the guy who wanted to play football. We (Klopp and Mourinho) could not have the same opinion in this moment."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2017, with the headline 'Reds have fire in their bellies'. Print Edition | Subscribe