Reds not going to blow top-four tilt: Klopp

Crystal Palace's Jason Puncheon (No. 42) battling for the ball with Lucas Leiva of Liverpool. The Reds slumped to a 1-2 loss at home to Palace, which damaged their hopes of Champions League football next season.
Crystal Palace's Jason Puncheon (No. 42) battling for the ball with Lucas Leiva of Liverpool. The Reds slumped to a 1-2 loss at home to Palace, which damaged their hopes of Champions League football next season.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insisted his side will not let the Champions League "slip through their fingers" again without a fight despite a potentially costly 2-1 defeat at home by Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Former Liverpool striker Christian Benteke scored twice for Palace to leave Klopp's side third in the table, but just two points clear of fourth-placed Manchester City and three ahead of Manchester United in fifth.

Both Manchester clubs have two games in hand in the scrap for Champions League places, meaning Liverpool's fate is no longer in their own hands.

But Klopp believes that his team, who could welcome back midfielder Adam Lallana for the trip to Watford on May 1, will fight to keep hold of their top-four spot.

"The boys delivered a lot of excitement and now it's about serious football, and doing what you have to do, and we will do," said Klopp, who saw Benteke's brace wipe out Philippe Coutinho's superb free-kick.

"I know a lot of people around will think, 'Oh my God, the Champions League slips through our fingers again.' Only if we let it slip. That's all I can say about this.

"We have tried everything and we will try everything."

Palace's win was their third in a row at Anfield, Sam Allardyce's first in 14 league visits as manager and stemmed, as he claimed, from a deliberate ploy to target the Reds' defensive issues.

"From start to finish we were tactically exceptional," said the Palace manager, who has overseen wins over Chelsea, Arsenal and now Liverpool in the last 22 days to alleviate the club's relegation fears.

"I give the players a huge amount of credit for the way they defended, and how they exposed the weaknesses of Liverpool defensively which, in the end, they couldn't cope with."

Victory took Palace to 38 points with five matches remaining and seven points clear of the relegation zone.

But Allardyce cautioned: "38 has been safe for a long time, but we are not mathematically safe yet.

"Five games to go, pick as many points up as we can and then, when we are mathematically safe, we will have a little celebration."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2017, with the headline 'Reds not going to blow top-four tilt: Klopp'. Print Edition | Subscribe