Klopp defends Reds' mentality

Liverpool's Roberto Firmino, Georginio Wijnaldum and captain Jordan Henderson looking on in dismay after their 3-3 draw at Sevilla on Tuesday. Left: Firmino scoring the first of his brace, only for his side to be pegged back despite a three-goal lead
Liverpool's Roberto Firmino, Georginio Wijnaldum and captain Jordan Henderson looking on in dismay after their 3-3 draw at Sevilla on Tuesday. PHOTOS: REUTERS
Liverpool's Roberto Firmino, Georginio Wijnaldum and captain Jordan Henderson looking on in dismay after their 3-3 draw at Sevilla on Tuesday. Left: Firmino scoring the first of his brace, only for his side to be pegged back despite a three-goal lead
Firmino scoring the first of his brace, only for his side to be pegged back despite a three-goal lead.PHOTOS: REUTERS

Manager insists collapse at Sevilla is a one-off but their back woes are a recurring problem

SEVILLE (Spain) • Georginio Wijnaldum's expression said it all. As the final whistle blew at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Tuesday, the Liverpool midfielder could be seen shaking his head in shock and despair as he tried to make sense of what had just happened.

Many of the travelling supporters for the Champions League Group E clash appeared equally shell-shocked, yet ultimately the surprise was that anyone was surprised.

After all, this was classic Liverpool - great going forward, gruesome in defence. A 3-0 lead thrown away and an important test failed.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp defended his side's mental strength despite the way they folded after a Roberto Firmino double either side of Sadio Mane's header had given them a 3-0 lead inside half an hour.

"It is not perfect tonight, but it is not a general problem," said the German. "It just happened. In this atmosphere, we need to get more and more experience.

"Could we have done better? 100 per cent, but do I think it is a mentality problem? 100 per cent not."

To concede once after taking a 3-0 lead can be deemed unfortunate. To concede twice, sloppy. To concede three times, well… that is Liverpool.

  • 1,297 Days since Liverpool last threw away a three-goal lead. That came in a 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace in a Premier League match in May 2014

It is the tragicomedy that keeps on repeating and only serves as further proof that for all the progress the Reds have made under Klopp, they still remain short of what is required to be proper contenders for the proper prizes.

It should be noted that a draw is not a disaster. Liverpool are still top of Group E and require a point against Spartak Moscow on Dec 6 to qualify for the knockout stages.

Alberto Moreno should bear the brunt of the blame.

The Spanish left-back has been consistently good this season, having been dropped during the previous campaign after one slapdash display too many.

But, back at his boyhood club, Moreno was well and truly back to his worst. The hosts' first goal in the 51st minute resulted from him charging out of position and then, having returned to where he should have been, needlessly fouling Pablo Sarabia. Ever Banega swung in the free kick and Wissam Ben Yedder did the rest.

Nine minutes later, Moreno was at it again, losing sight of the ball before tripping Yedder for a clear penalty, which the striker converted at the second attempt.

Moreno was substituted soon afterwards but Liverpool's defensive malaise did not end there.

As Klopp said, they stopped playing football, retreating far too deep as Guido Pizarro prodded home a stoppage-time equaliser to extend their year-long unbeaten home run.

"They are human beings," Klopp said of his players' complacency after half-time. "Maybe it was misjudgment in controlling the game.

"If this is Anfield and we are 3-0 up, it is different but it was here, and we let them come back in the game and that is our main mistake."

Sevilla's courageous comeback was marred by news that coach Eduardo Berizzo has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Spanish media reported that he told his players about the illness at half-time.

After the match, midfielder Banega said: "We had to come out (in the second half) with a different attitude for the fans and also the coach. He's the biggest fan we have.

"He has taken us on the right path and we're with him all the way."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2017, with the headline 'Klopp defends Reds' mentality'. Print Edition | Subscribe