Klopp dampens speculation on Lucas

Plymouth defender Yann Songo'o fouls Liverpool's Alberto Moreno in the box. The resulting penalty, taken by forward Divock Origi, was saved by goalkeeper Luke McCormick.
Plymouth defender Yann Songo'o fouls Liverpool's Alberto Moreno in the box. The resulting penalty, taken by forward Divock Origi, was saved by goalkeeper Luke McCormick.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp vowed that Lucas Leiva would remain at the club after the Brazilian's goal secured a 1-0 FA Cup third-round replay victory at fourth-tier Plymouth Argyle.

Lucas, Liverpool's stand-in captain, scored his first goal in more than six years to see off the League Two minnows at Home Park on Wednesday.

Afterwards, Klopp attempted to quash speculation linking Lucas with a January transfer to Italian giants Inter Milan.

When asked if Lucas would definitely be staying at Anfield this season, Klopp said: "From my point of view, I think yes he is staying.

"But what is definitely in this business? We have kind of an agreement so I actually would say yes.

"Lucas is a very valuable squad player. He's a great personality and a good player. He's a really wonderful guy. He is really important for us."

Lucas converted Philippe Coutinho's 18th-minute corner with a near-post header to give Liverpool victory over Plymouth, who had come away from Anfield with a 0-0 draw in the teams' first meeting.

It was the 30-year-old's first goal since a Europa League tie with Steaua Bucharest in September 2010. Klopp also expressed satisfaction that Coutinho is easing his way towards full fitness after an ankle ligament injury.

The former Inter playmaker started a game for the first time since Liverpool's 2-0 win over Sunderland in late November.

"It was good and I am really happy," said Klopp, whose side will host second-tier Wolverhampton Wanderers in the fourth round.

"It was really important for us. He played 60 minutes and it was the perfect intensity, so it's good for him and good for us."

The result could have been uncomfortable for Klopp had Jake Jervis's acrobatic volley gone in rather than hit a Liverpool post in the 75th minute.

The tension rose further when Divock Origi saw a penalty saved in the closing stages by Plymouth goalkeeper Luke McCormick after Yann Songo'o fouled Alberto Moreno. But Lucas' goal proved enough.

"Maybe it was not the most exciting game, but for us it was very important," the Liverpool manager added.

"I love this in football, everybody can cause everybody problems."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2017, with the headline 'Klopp dampens speculation on Lucas'. Print Edition | Subscribe