Football: Derby tinkering was the right call, insists Liverpool boss Klopp

Coutinho and Firmino are two of Liverpool's most influential players, but Klopp opted to bring on the Brazilians only in the second half of one of their biggest games of the season.
Coutinho and Firmino are two of Liverpool's most influential players, but Klopp opted to bring on the Brazilians only in the second half of one of their biggest games of the season. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp defended his team selection for the Merseyside derby after he started Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino on the bench.

He also withdrew Mohamed Salah before Everton equalised with a late penalty for a 1-1 draw.

Salah had put the Reds ahead on Sunday with a curling effort but the Toffees were awarded a spot kick when Dejan Lovren nudged over Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the box.

Wayne Rooney scored from the spot - his first goal in six Merseyside derby appearances - to ensure Sam Allardyce's side took a share of the spoils at Anfield.

Coutinho and Firmino are two of Liverpool's most influential players, but Klopp opted to bring on the Brazilians only in the second half of one of their biggest games of the season. Instead, Dominic Solanke was handed his second Premier League start of the campaign while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also made the starting XI.

Despite the result, Klopp claimed he made the right calls.

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  • Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 15 games in all competitions against Everton - their joint-longest run against the Toffees since 1972-78.

"I thought before the game, yes. After, still yes," he said. "Even when the result doesn't show it. I said before we can change as much as we want when we win. When we don't win, I take the blame. I have no problem with that.

"The boys who came in were fresh and worked hard. We tried everything. We had clear chances. We had everything you need."

Going into the derby, Coutinho, Firmino, Salah and Sadio Mane had combined for 46 goals and 21 assists this season.

Even without half of their "Fab Four", the hosts dominated the game from the start, with captain Jordan Henderson making more passes (60) than the entire Everton team (54) in the first half.

Everton had just 21 per cent of the ball, their lowest in a league game since Opta started recording possession statistics in the 2003-04 season. The Reds also took 23 shots to the visitors' three.

With the Toffees offering little threat up front, Klopp accused referee Craig Pawson of letting Everton back into the match.

"I cannot believe in a game like this when only one team are trying to win it and the other team were never in our box, you open the door for them like this," he said of the penalty decision.

Allardyce claimed that even if all four forwards had started, Everton would have kept them out.

"We kept them (Salah and Mane) extremely quiet," he said. "He (Coutinho) did come on and we kept him quiet."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2017, with the headline 'Derby tinkering was right call: Klopp'. Print Edition | Subscribe