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Klopp: Liverpool’s defeat of Fulham ‘a brilliant afternoon’

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Jurgen Klopp wasn’t grasping for positivity after Liverpool escaped Craven Cottage with a 2-1 defeat of Fulham and a place atop the Premier League table.

As a matter of fact, he felt great about his team’s performance in the win even after a colossal misunderstanding between Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson Becker nearly cost the side all three points through an equalizer from ex-Reds forward Ryan Babel.

[ RECAP: Fulham 1-2 Liverpool ]

Fortunately for Liverpool, Sadio Mane won a penalty and James Milner converted it to give the Reds their win.

“It is clear at 1-0 if you don’t kill it off that can happen,” Klopp said. “Babel was there that is how football is. They deserved a goal but we deserved three points. A brilliant afternoon I have to say.”

Klopp said his side was hampered by its midweek Champions League defeat of Bayern Munich, and that he is not worried about them moving forward in pursuit of a Premier League title.

“I am not the most experienced manager and I have similar problems after Champions League games,” Klopp said, later adding, “I am not in any doubt about my players nerves. It is about intensity. We go for perfection but it is rare that you get it. Burnley, Munich, Fulham – you have to adapt. People will say we need to be more convincing, but we are at the start of a development, not the end.”

As for the mishap that had the score line at 1-1, both Milner and Van Dijk weren’t looking for excuses. Milner butchered a clearing attempt that put Van Dijk on the hook, and the Dutch defender’s pass back to Alisson was poor.

At the time, it had more than a hint of Steven Gerrard‘s infamous slip a few years back, one of the players of the season succumbing to misfortune.

At least Milner had a sense of humor about it.

“The gaffer told me to come on and calm it down and the first thing I do is slice it and put Virgil under pressure which wasn’t ideal,” Milner said.

“I am not giving excuses,” Van Dijk said. “I should have handled it better. They scored but so did we and we have three points and move back to the top of the table. … We knew it would be tough. We made it difficult for ourselves. We weren’t calm on the ball. We got the three points though and we can now focus on the national teams.”

Liverpool has a two-point lead on Man City, who has played one fewer match but that match is currently the Manchester Derby.

Late penalty puts Liverpool atop table (video)

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  • Mane opens scoring in 26th
  • Ex-Reds striker Babel stars in loss
  • Mane wins late penalty, Milner converts

James Milner‘s 81st minute penalty saved Liverpool blushes in a 2-1 defeat of Fulham at Craven Cottage on Sunday.

The Reds had a Sadio Mane-inspired lead, but had given it back through a comedy of errors Ryan Babel equalizer.

Liverpool goes atop the Premier League on 76 points, having played one more match than Man City (74 points).

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Some lively dribbling from ex-Liverpool man Ryan Babel cued up Jean-Michael Seri for a shot that sailed over the goal.

Andrew Robertson hit a cross too close to Fulham keeper Rico after some fancy dribbling of his own.

Liverpool was asking all the questions when Mane put them ahead, beginning the move on the left wing before passing to and receiving from Roberto Firmino for 1-0.

Mane joins three players chasing Sergio Aguero’s league-leading goal total of 18: Mohamed Salah, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Harry Kane.

Mane has nine goals in his last nine PL matches, and 11 in 11 overall.

Liverpool was a bit lucky that a rash foul from Fabinho didn’t earn him as second yellow card and send the Reds down to 10 men at the break.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Fulham did not quit, and looked the better money for a second half goal. A first break saw Aleksandar Mitrovic nod into the goal only to see an offside flag deny the marker.

Babel was at the center of it all, and led a second break which ended with a Alisson Becker save on Andre Franck Zambo Anguissa.

That’s when calamity occurred in the center of the pitch. James Milner mishit a clearance, and Virgil Van Dijk casually headed back toward Alisson. The goalkeeper lost the ball in his feet, and Babel was on the doorstep to slot home.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

The stalemate lasted just a few minutes, as Milner converted a penalty conceded when Rico impeded Mane in the box.

Mohamed Salah had a chance to put the match to bed following a Mane-led run, but the Egyptian fired right at Rico.

Watch Live: Fulham v. Liverpool

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Liverpool can go atop the Premier League table with a defeat of Fulham at Craven Cottage on Sunday (Watch live at 10:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com)

And Cottagers interim boss Scott Parker will be cognizant of Liverpool’s plan to exploit his leaky defense to reduce Man City’s 7-goal advantage in differential.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Fulham’s razor-thin chances of making up a 13-point deficit on 17th place need an unlikely result here, and likely a win.

Jordan Henderson and James Milner are out of the lineup that beat Bayern Munich 3-1 on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League, with Fabinho and Adam Lallana taking their places in the XI.

LINEUPS

Fulham: Rico, Fosu-Mensah, Chambers, Ream, Bryan, Seri, Cairney, Zambo Anguissa, Ayite, Mitrovic, Babel. Subs: Fabri, Christie, Odoi, McDonald, Sessegnon, Kebano, Vietto.

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Matip, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Lallana, Salah, Mane, Firmino. Subs: Mignolet, Lovren, Milner, Sturridge, Moreno, Shaqiri, Origi.

Klopp: Defending, experience will help Liverpool

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Jurgen Klopp seems to be a bit calmer now that Liverpool has clinched a berth in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.

Drawing Porto for its next tie probably didn’t hurt his new vibe.

[ MORE: Analyzing the UCL draw ]

Reflecting on what worked for Liverpool against Bayern and how it needs to translate to the rest of the tournament, Klopp pointed to defense. That may explain why he opted for a midfield of James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Jordan Henderson to start the second leg. From the BBC:

“The last five Champions League games we lost is because we didn’t defend like we wanted to but at Munich we did and from this basis you can win, it’s the experience from last year we get this and it has helped a lot. … If there is a final at the end, good – but we think about that at the end, not now.”

As for this weekend’s Premier League match with Fulham, which gives the Cottagers a chance to go atop the table, Klopp expects the Reds to be ready despite its monumental win over Bayern Munich in Germany.

The Reds’ boss has to quickly turn around his men for Saturday’s visit to Fulham, who are desperate for points and playing a bit better under interim boss Scott Parker.

“We’ve been over it and we have to make sure we are spot on from the opening second to win the game.”

Mane leads Liverpool past Bayern Munich (video)

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  • Mane bags brace
  • Gnabry, Lewandowski force Matip own goal
  • Milner finds Van Dijk for goal

Sadio Mane scored two goals and was an all-around menace as Liverpool defeated Bayern Munich 3-1 at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday to score a berth in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals after a scoreless first leg.

Virgil Van Dijk also scored for the Reds, who conceded via a Joel Matip own goal in the win.

The quarterfinal draw is Friday morning. Four of the eight quarterfinalists are from the Premier League.

Andy Robertson picked up a yellow card in stoppage time, and will miss the first leg of the next round.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Liverpool made an early change when Jordan Henderson was hurt, bringing Fabinho into the XI.

Out of nothing, Roberto Firmino lashed a shot wide of Manuel Neuer’s far post.

Liverpool then took the lead on a horrible mistake from Neuer, as Mane turned him inside out on the edge of the 18 and swept a shot across the line.

Robert Lewandowski then bounced a shot to Alisson, as Bayern knew it would need to score twice without conceding.

Neuer stopped a marauding Andy Robertson at the near post in the 34th minute.

It all went level in the 39th minute, as Serge Gnabry cooked Robertson and Joel Matip‘s desperation bid to clear Gnabry’s cross toward Lewandowski went into the goal.

David Alaba zipped a free kick over the wall that Alisson Becker saved, and it remained 1-1 into halftime.

Mohamed Salah stung the palms of Neuer with a 50th minute rocket, as Liverpool looked for a goal to put victory firmly in its grasp.

Lewandowski then just missed a Gnabry cross before Bayern gave the Reds a pair of corner kicks.

The second was James Milner‘s assist on Van Dijk’s thumped back post header, and Liverpool was in very good shape with a little more than 20 minutes to play in Munich.

Salah could’ve earned a penalty after contact in the box but fought through it and had a chance denied by Bayern.

Substitute Renato Sanches missed wide with an 83rd minute effort to tie the second leg.

And in the end, Mane was just too much. The Senegalese star completed his brace in the 84th minute.