Klopp has ‘so much faith’ but pressure builds on Liverpool

Leave a comment

MANCHESTER — The pressure is now on Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool, as their lead atop the Premier League table was cut to four points after losing their first game of the season at Manchester City.

A 2-1 defeat at the home of the reigning champs is hardly a low point for Liverpool, but this was a pivotal game in the story of the 2018-19 season.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

From Sadio Mane‘s shot which hit the post and was somehow cleared by John Stones, to shots cleared off the line late on and Leroy Sane’s game-winner hitting the post and going in, Klopp’s men just didn’t get the rub of the green as their 20-game unbeaten run to start the season was ended.

Asked by Pro Soccer Talk in the press conference after the game about the pressure now on his team to react to this defeat, Klopp’s belief in his players was unwavering.

“I have so much faith in my players you can’t imagine. If someone had told me after both games after Man City we were four points up, I would have paid money for it like you cannot believe. It’s something that is not possible. You wanted to tell us if this happens, if that happens, Pep said something similar very nice, that their season would be over if they lose tonight. Football is like this. If we win this and are 10 points ahead and from that point win no game any more, then nothing happens. For us it is really important that we just take it game by game, because there is no other chance.”

Yet he knows the coming months will be tough.

Klopp has lost 10 of his 25 games in the month of January as Liverpool boss, and how his team reacts to this damaging defeat with the whole world questioning their title credentials will tell us how much more about them than their 20-game unbeaten run to start the season.

His team selection for the game at City showed how cautious Klopp was about losing, with James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum starting as the midfield three. They were overrun by Man City’s midfield trio and the initiative was handed to Liverpool’s opponents early on.

Liverpool’s manager complained about Vincent Kompany‘s robust, lunging tackle on Mohamed Salah in the first half but admitted City had more control of the game in key areas. He knew his team had missed a big chance to pull clear of City and Tottenham.

The pressure is on, but Klopp seemed frustrated that everyone expects his team to know how to clinch a title and trophies when they haven’t been in that situation before.

Liverpool haven’t won a league title in 29 years and Klopp and his squad have yet to win a trophy together. And he knows that experience is crucial to getting a team over the line.

“If we would have won the title five times in the last 10 years, then we could go 100 percent, but we don’t have the experience. Why should we behave like somebody who won all the time?” Klopp said. “It is true the club hasn’t won it for a long time. We never won it as a team, that is how it is. We want to finish the season as good as possible. We can do that. We are still in a pretty good position, so it is all fine for us. Not in the moment, it feels really bad, but it is only a moment. Then tomorrow morning, we wake up and still feels average, then we have an opportunity to work on it and work on it for the next game.”

With 17 games to go they are still in a fabulous position to win their first-ever PL title, but Klopp now looks like a man who knows his team will have to do it the hard way if he’s going to be parading the trophy around Anfield on the final day of the season with that trademark large grin on his face.

Fernandez scores twice as Portland wins thriller in Seattle (video)

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
Leave a comment

The game in 200 words (or less): Brian Fernandez has made the most of his first two-plus months in MLS, undoubtedly capped off by a star’s performance in his Timbers-Sounders rivalry debut on Sunday. The Argentine scored both of Portland’s goals in a 2-1 victory at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, all while managing to annoy anyone and everyone in Rave Green with his pest-like antics.

Fernandez’s first came after just 20 minutes. His second came barely 20 seconds after Raul Ruidiaz drew Seattle level in the second half. With the result, Portland climbs to within two points of the Western Conference’s seventh and final playoff place. Seattle, meanwhile, misses out on a chance to leapfrog LA Galaxy for second.

[ MORE: Pity proves his point as Atlanta tops DCU late (video) ]

Three moments that mattered

20′ — Fernandez slams home after Moreira smashes the crossbar — Jorge Moreira’s initial blast deserved to hit the back of the net, but he’ll surely settle for Fernandez cleaning up the mess and bagging the opener.

50′ — Ruidiaz passes into an empty net for 1-1 — Steve Clark was trying to… hmm, you know what? Not really sure.

51′ — Fernandez answers right back and it’s 2-1 — It was the deftest of touches, but it’s all that was required seconds after Portland conceded down the other end of the field.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Brian Fernandez

Goalscorers: Fernandez (20′, 51′), Ruidiaz (50′)

Red Bulls escape Orlando with three points (video)

AP Photo/John Raoux
Leave a comment

The game in 200 words (or less): The New York Red Bulls needed a little help from the woodwork to escape Orlando with a victory on Sunday, and they got it — not once, not twice, but three times in the second half. After scoring the game’s only goal just past the half-hour mark, Luis Robles and Co., held on for dear life as Orlando City SC attacked with wave after wave of pressure. Robles made four saves, while the posts and crossbar made three more for him. Brian White scored the goal, assisted by Kaku, his seventh of the season. The victory sees the Red Bulls climb past New York City FC for fourth place in the Eastern Conference, now just a point back of D.C. United in third and two back of Atlanta United in second.

[ MORE: Pity proves his point as Atlanta tops DCU late (video) ]

Three moments that mattered

32′ — White finishes Kaku’s curling ball — Brian Rowe is unlucky not to make the save, but it would have been a grave crime against brilliance for this ball from Kaku not to result in a goal.

60′ — Ascues hits the crossbar — Woodwork.

77′ — Kljestan smashes the post — Woodwork again. The follow-up accidentally hits Robles as he’s lying on the ground.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Luis Robles/posts and crossbar

Goalscorers: White (32′)

Sevilla score late winner to beat Liverpool in Fenway friendly

AP Photo/Mary Schwalm
Leave a comment

BOSTON (AP) Alejandro Pozo scored in the 90th minute on an assist from Munir El Haddadi to give hard-fighting Sevilla a victory over crowd favorite Liverpool at Fenway Park on Sunday in a game that was friendly in name only.

The Spanish side finished with 10 players after Gnagnon Joris violently kicked the legs out from under Liverpool midfielder Yasser Larouci in the 76th minute; he crashed to the turf, remained down for several minutes and was taken off on a stretcher.

Despite temperatures in the mid-90s, nearly the entire 37,000-seat ballpark was full for the friendly, with most of them dressed in red to support Liverpool. The Champions League winners and the Boston Red Sox, who make their home at Fenway, are both owned by groups led by financier John Henry.

The field was laid out from the third-base side to right field, with the home team bullpen removed to make room. The teams had their benches in front of the iconic Green Monster, the 37-foot wall in left field. Much of the baseball diamond itself was covered with sod; the pitcher’s mound was sawed apart and shoveled off after the Red Sox finished their homestand on Sunday.

After the U.S. national anthem, the fans serenaded the Reds with the traditional “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

To deal with the heat, the game was stopped once each half to give the players a chance to hydrate; the Fenway grounds crew also came out with hoses to wet down the infield, and sprinklers took care of the outfield.

The fans didn’t get to see many of their favorites, with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino all resting from international tournaments, along with goalkeeper Alisson. With Liverpool’s top four goalkeepers unavailable, Andy Longergan, who spent the last season at Middlesbrough, got the start in goal.

Liverpool dominated early, but it was Sevilla that scored first when a ball deflected in the penalty area to Nolito, who made it 1-0 in the 37th minute. Divock Origi tied it in the 44th minute when a header deflected to him at the post and he buried it.

The players on the field – at least those in Sevilla’s white kits – didn’t seem to be persuaded that the game was only an exhibition. A tough tackle in the 12th minute resulted in a foul on Ever Banega, and it was upgraded to a yellow card when he slammed the ball into the ground in protest.

Liverpool midfielder Harry Wilson left just before the half after apparently getting poked in the eye. But that was nothing compared to the straight red card given to Joris. He seemed to be the only person in the stadium who disagreed with the call, arguing with the referee while Larouci was attended to.

The teams substituted liberally at halftime, with every Liverpool player except Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced by a substitute. Four Sevilla players stayed in to start the second half.

Red-hot Revs beat FC Cincy, make it 10 games unbeaten (video)

AP Photo/Steven Senne
Leave a comment

The game in 200 words (or less): Statistically speaking, no other team even comes close to rivaling the New England Revolution as the hottest team in MLS. With a 2-0 road victory over expansion side FC Cincinnati on Sunday, Bruce Arena’s side hasn’t lost in 10 games (nine of which have been played since he was named head coach) and now sits above the playoff cut line in the Eastern Conference. At present, two points separate them and fourth-place New York City FC. Carles Gil has been a revelation as a new signing last winter, and Arena has gotten so much more out of the rest of the remaining roster than Brad Friedel did during his 15 months in charge. Gil scored what turned out to be the early winner on Sunday, followed by an insurance goal (set up by Gil) from Antonio Delamea early in the second half. It was as routine as a road victory can be in MLS, which is as much of an indictment of Cincinnati as it is a compliment to the Revs.

[ MORE: Pity proves his point as Atlanta tops DCU late (video) ]

Two moments that mattered

9′ — Gil cleans up a mess and makes it 1-0 — Sometimes, if not most of the time, Cincinnati defends exactly how you would expect an expansion team to defend.

55′ — Delamea heads home for 2-0 — Headed goals don’t come much easier, or less contested, than this one.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Carles Gil

Goalscorers: Gil (9′), Delamea (55′)