Reds urged to 'enjoy ride'

Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring Liverpool’s first goal against Cardiff in their Premier League match, as Roberto Firmino rushes to join in. The Reds won 2-0 to put the pressure back on champions Manchester City.
Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring Liverpool’s first goal against Cardiff in their Premier League match, as Roberto Firmino rushes to join in. The Reds won 2-0 to put the pressure back on champions Manchester City.PHOTO: REUTERS

Klopp wants team to harness fans' support; plays down City's key showdown with United

LONDON • Liverpool are inching towards a first league title in 29 years, but Jurgen Klopp has called on his team to bask in the journey with their supporters and not be consumed by the "Holy Grail" of lifting the Premier League crown.

The Reds' 2-0 victory at relegation-threatened Cardiff on Sunday restored their two-point lead over champions Manchester City (86 points), who will play their game in hand against cross-town rivals Manchester United tomorrow.

While Pep Guardiola's men will return to the top of the table should they win at Old Trafford, it has still been a season to cherish for Klopp and his players, with just three league matches left.

He said: "If you are only motivated to win the (league title), then something is wrong with you. We want to win football games because we enjoy the ride with the fans.

"In the end, we will see how many points we have and then we get what we get."

Georginio Wijnaldum's second-half opener - a cleverly worked corner routine which resulted in Trent Alexander-Arnold's cutback - and James Milner's late penalty secured a ninth consecutive win in all competitions for Klopp's men, a result he called "really massive".

The German said: "We spoke a lot about this game, how special it is, how special the situation is for the opponent. It was not a game for playing around. It was a battle of will, who wants it more."

 

BONE HARD

Dry pitches are dangerous for the players injury-wise... the ball doesn't roll that quick and it's difficult for the fluency of the game.

JURGEN KLOPP, Liverpool manager, is not happy with the pitch at Cardiff.

He also revealed that Wijnaldum's strike was from "not from the training ground, but from the dressing room at half-time when the boys decided to do that".

He said: "We put a lot of emphasis on set pieces. We know Cardiff are outstandingly strong on offensive set pieces but, from time to time, they have problems with defensive set pieces. Some of the boys obviously found that out.

"A brilliant goal, I loved it."

He blasted the playing surface, which was not watered despite the baking temperatures and was "bone hard".

He said: "The ball didn't roll like normal. Everybody saw it. Dry pitches are dangerous for the players injury-wise and you know why people leave the pitch dry.

"The ball doesn't roll that quick and it's difficult for the fluency of the game."

Cardiff boss Neil Warnock denied he had ordered his groundsmen not to water the pitch and did some finger pointing of his own - at Mohamed Salah, who won Milner's spot kick. He accused the forward of going down too easily and that he could not have "got much higher off the diving board".

Klopp insisted it was a penalty because Cardiff captain Sean Morrison "used the hand four or five times".

He started the mind games ahead of City's tricky trip to United, who were routed 4-0 at Everton on Sunday, saying he is not counting his chickens yet.

"Even if United get a point or something, we still have to play games after that. We just have to stay focused on our things," said Klopp, whose team host Huddersfield on Friday.

"Some people up in Liverpool might ask us if we're thinking about Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals (on May 1).

"We'll be completely focused on Huddersfield."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 23, 2019, with the headline 'Reds urged to 'enjoy ride''. Print Edition | Subscribe