Football: Klopp on top in battle of best friends

Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum bulging the net with a 75th-minute rocket. The easy win was a welcome respite for Jurgen Klopp's men.
Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum bulging the net with a 75th-minute rocket. The easy win was a welcome respite for Jurgen Klopp's men.PHOTO: REUTERS


Liverpool 3

Huddersfield 0

The Huddersfield fans have a favourite song. David Wagner, they tend to chorus, is "better than Klopp". Given the gulf in resources between the club with the smallest budget in the Premier League and mighty Liverpool, they may be right.

But yesterday, Jurgen Klopp bested his best man.

Liverpool beat Huddersfield, the conquerors of Manchester United. After only two wins in 10 games and a shellacking from Tottenham, they got back on track.

A meeting between the closest of friends was determined with the aid of a man playing against his half-brother, in Georginio Wijnaldum. The win featured a goal by another Klopp has taken to heart, Roberto Firmino, but also one who has fallen from favour in his reign.

Daniel Sturridge seemed the best man in the Liverpool attack when Klopp was appointed. He owed his place yesterday to the absences of Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho. He nonetheless scored the 100th goal of his club career.

Sturridge had been stuck on 99 since August. He brought up the milestone with a finisher's instinct in the 50th minute, lofting the ball over Jonas Lossl after Huddersfield captain Tommy Smith, while trying to cut out an Alberto Moreno ball, succeeded only in heading it towards the Liverpool striker.

And, at a stroke, the frustration at Anfield dissipated.

It had built up by the interval, courtesy of a missed penalty. Smith tugged back Firmino as they challenged for James Milner's free kick.

Mohamed Salah had converted an injury-time spot-kick to take Egypt to the World Cup earlier this month. There was less pressure on the summer signing this time, but his aim was not as true. He fired it down the middle of the goal, Lossl parried and though Jordan Henderson clipped the post with the rebound, it went wide.

Remarkably, Liverpool have not scored a penalty at Anfield in 2017. Their last three spot-kicks have all been saved.

But while Klopp has had set-piece problems in both boxes, Wagner's defence was found wanting at a dead-ball situation in the 58th minute. Milner's corner was met by a stooping Firmino, who had escaped Aaron Mooy.

It was unfortunate for Mathias Jorgensen, who had made a brilliant last-ditch intervention to deny Sturridge a second, but conceded the corner in the process.

There was a hug before kick-off between Klopp and Wagner. The other pre-match drama came when Dejan Lovren was injured in the warm-up.

It was not just another game for the managers, nor for two of their players, with Dutch half-brothers Rajiv van la Parra and Wijnaldum on opposing sides. They were, until Huddersfield winger van la Parra went off in the first half.

Wijnaldum had more to celebrate, rifling a shot into the roof of the net in the 75th minute to complete a restorative occasion for Klopp.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 29, 2017, with the headline 'Klopp on top in battle of best friends'. Print Edition | Subscribe