Merseyslide #1: Liverpool

Football: Klopp battling red faces

Frustration and despondence were evident in the body language of Liverpool's Joel Matip (right) and Simon Mignolet after Newcastle United's Joselu scores the equaliser for the newly promoted side on Sunday.
Frustration and despondence were evident in the body language of Liverpool's Joel Matip (right) and Simon Mignolet after Newcastle United's Joselu scores the equaliser for the newly promoted side on Sunday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Sloppy defence, poor marksmanship still major hurdles, as draw at Newcastle shows

LONDON • The number-crunchers behind football's voguish expected-goals model might need to tweak their formula.

For Liverpool at present, the only expectation is of profligacy at one end of the pitch and vulnerability at the other.

Before leaving St James' Park on Sunday after their 1-1 Premier League draw with Newcastle United, manager Jurgen Klopp called it a "hard moment" for his team. It is also a conundrum - one that he needs to solve as a matter of growing urgency.

For both sides, the match followed the pattern of previous weeks.

Whereas Rafa Benitez and Newcastle were buoyed by solidarity and resilience, Klopp and Liverpool were left to rue familiar failings at both ends.

The past seven matches in all competitions have yielded only one win for Liverpool. They lie seventh in the Premier League, seven points behind the leaders Manchester City, and are in danger of being left behind in the title race, if indeed they have not been already.

Klopp said in his post-match press conference that he believes that the Reds are "not far away from a real challenge". Other teams, he said, will "have their hard moments" too.










They will, but Liverpool do not look ruthless enough to do what City and Manchester United are doing. The deficiencies that let them down on Sunday are too well established for that.

This latest frustration for Liverpool followed a familiar pattern - a spectacular goal from Philippe Coutinho was followed within six minutes by the dim-witted defending of central defenders Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip that allowed Joselu to equalise.

Liverpool dominated possession and chalked up 17 attempts on goal to Newcastle's eight, but it is not just in their own penalty area that Klopp's team lack composure. Of those 17 Liverpool shots, some of them from very inviting positions, only two, damningly, were on target.

Klopp drew attention to an incident early in the second half when Daniel Sturridge, back in the starting line-up but seemingly short of confidence, shot straight at Newcastle goalkeeper Rob Elliot in a one-on-one situation and then Mohamed Salah missed the target with what looked like a routine opportunity as the ball ran loose.

"What is my job?" the Liverpool manager said. "To say, 'Mo, don't do that next time' and 'Daniel, please have a look next time'? They know that - and they will do that next time."

What should alarm Klopp, though, is how Liverpool's threat faded thereafter. They continued to dominate possession, and there were still chances, but a forward line that began the season so effervescently looked low on energy and, in the case of Sturridge, low on confidence.

But the manager remained confident the tide will change. "If we do what we are good at then we can score more goals and we will win more games," he said. "We don't have to think about other teams and we will close the gap."

Benitez was pleased by his team's performance against the club he once guided to a Champions League triumph in a match attended by millionaire businesswoman Amanda Staveley, amid speculation she could be linked with a takeover of Newcastle.

"Against a team like Liverpool you have to be happy," he said. "The lads did a great job and with a bit more composure on the ball we could have scored another goal."

Told that Klopp thought Newcastle should have lost, he turned diplomatic: "Sometimes you get what you deserve, sometimes you don't. We have got a point at home, which isn't the best, but against one of the top teams you take it."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2017, with the headline 'Klopp battling red faces'. Print Edition | Subscribe