Yes he can but Reds cannot let up yet

A moment of improvised brilliance from Emre Can, with his spectacular overhead strike giving Liverpool a 1-0 win over Watford.
A moment of improvised brilliance from Emre Can, with his spectacular overhead strike giving Liverpool a 1-0 win over Watford.PHOTO: REUTERS

Can's wonder goal lifts Liverpool, but Klopp warns Champions League spot not theirs yet

LONDON • Jurgen Klopp has warned his players not to assume Champions League football is theirs after Emre Can's startling bicycle kick beat Watford and ensured that a top-four finish is within Liverpool's reach with three games to play.

Can scored the "best goal" of his career in first-half stoppage time, connecting sweetly with Lucas Leiva's diagonal pass, to move the visitors four points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United after the 1-0 Premier League win.

Victories over Southampton, West Ham and Middlesbrough will ensure the Reds' return to Europe's elite club competition but Klopp, while thrilled at his side's response to their recent home defeat by Crystal Palace, remains cautious.

"We need to stay focused, to stay concentrated," he said. "We have pressure until the end of the season but at least it's a positive pressure. That is better. It means we are fighting for something.

"So we'll do everything to get the points we need, but it won't be easy. If people think we already have the three points against Southampton, for example, then they've not watched them play this season. They're another really strong side.

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

I said to the players after the game, if they want to kill me, that's a good way to try it. They tried everything over 97 minutes but one mistake could have led to the goal.

JURGEN KLOPP, Liverpool manager, after his team nearly let Watford equalise in stoppage time as Sebastian Prodl's shot hit the crossbar.

"But this was a big win and won by a great goal. Emre is a good player, a good player. He'd had a calf problem (earlier this season) but we simply couldn't leave him out. We needed him in those moments.

"Sometimes he wasn't as good as he could have been, but now those problems are sorted, he's physically strong again and we can see he can score goals like this."

Can's acrobatics ensured Liverpool coped with the loss of Philippe Coutinho to a dead leg, with Adam Lallana featuring for 74 minutes on his return from a thigh problem.

The Liverpool manager did have to endure watching Sebastian Prodl batter a shot against the crossbar in the fifth minute of stoppage time as Watford threatened to draw level.

"I said to the players after the game, if they want to kill me, that's a good way to try it," added Klopp.

"They tried everything over 97 minutes but one mistake could have led to the goal. That's how football at this level is. We didn't play perfectly tonight but conceding in the last second would not have been deserved."

Liverpool will resist selling Can this summer despite the player having failed to agree terms over a new deal as he enters the final 12 months of his contract.

"Everything is in our hands," said the Germany international.

"If we win the three last three games we are in the Champions League. We are confident we can achieve that. If we perform how we can perform, we can do it.

"Having seen the results over the weekend (when both Manchester City and United dropped points), this was a big game for us. And that is the best goal I've ever scored."

Watford manager Walter Mazzarri, whose side remain 13th in the table, said the final score was not an accurate reflection of the game.

"If you look at all Liverpool's games, they usually create five or six clear chances," said the Italian.

"Today we hardly conceded any chances and we also had a couple of chances, so overall it was a good performance.

"I usually don't like to speak about luck, but today we were completely unlucky."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2017, with the headline 'Yes he can but Reds cannot let up yet'. Print Edition | Subscribe