Anfield wind fails to blow Klopp's revolution off course
Liverpool 1 Swansea 0
Published 30/11/2015 | 02:30
It was emerging as one of those dank afternoons that Jürgen Klopp has already spoken out about; where Anfield dims to the point that those near enough can catch the flutter of litter from the stadium's fast-food kiosks whirling about the pitch, trapped in the angry gusts blowing in from the Irish Sea.
The conditions were probably worse than anyone watching appreciated. By the end, Liverpool were struggling to make distance with any of their clearances as they attempted to hang on for a positive result. It had been a fiesta of undercooked passes and others charred completely, forming a persuasive argument that it would have been fair to consider spectators as part of the possession stats.
Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who was punished on Thursday night in their Europa League match for holding on to the ball for too long, was apprehended again, booked by Anthony Taylor for wasting time.
Here, Mignolet's action may have been a deliberate tactic: Liverpool had seized a lead via a penalty from James Milner before retreating almost immediately with the introductions of Jordan Henderson and then Daniel Sturridge, a pair who had not played for Klopp since the German's arrival on Merseyside.
With so many draws elsewhere this weekend, the manner of this victory - the first in five attempts immediately after a Europa League fixture this season - might not matter for Liverpool in the context of time, for they are gathering momentum and closing in on a top-four position.
Klopp has now secured six wins in seven matches and this outcome meant he was able to offer one of his humorous observations. "It wasn't our best performance but it was our best performance in strong wind!" he said.
More than anything, he was pleased with his players' acceptance of the circumstance.
"It was really crazy," he added. "Sometimes there was no wind and then suddenly, whoosh! It was difficult. You cannot say this is how our football should be. But you have to accept all weather: rain or snow, even though it can be the biggest enemy of football. We did it okay."
Swansea did okay too but nothing more. Manager Garry Monk is under pressure and Swansea's board has already met to discuss what should happen if results do not improve soon.
Swansea have now won just one in 10 league games but Monk was adamant his team did not perform like one that is struggling, reasoning that it was his game-plan to try to frustrate Liverpool before taking advantage later on, making bold substitutions when the tension inside Anfield inevitably became more audible.
The first half certainly followed a clear pattern: Liverpool attacking and Swansea defending, Liverpool's harassment impressive, their use of possession less so. It explained why Swansea managed to remain level for an hour.
Despite initial impressions that this was an opponent brittle enough to be beaten quite easily, Liverpool did not capitalise on their absolute control of the first 25 minutes when the visiting defence was carved up and chances were missed and, with that, Swansea's confidence increased.
Perhaps Jordon Ibe should have scored when he was freed by Adam Lallana, only for Kyle Bartley to catch up and, in making a tackle, strike the foot of the post. Perhaps Lallana's pass was not quite as far in front of Ibe as it should have been.
Perhaps the moment revealed another theme: strangely, Liverpool looked most dangerous in the seconds after surrendering the ball, a self-defeating cycle too regular for it to be constructive.
Anfield quietened and a sense loomed that if the mood were to change, it would take a mistake or an intervention from an official to make it happen. And so it proved: although referee Taylor did not see the block made by Neil Taylor from Ibe's cross, his assistant Simon Beck was closer and, in raising his flag, made the right decision.
Monk argued otherwise, claiming the left-back was not even looking at the ball but the manager was ignoring that Taylor's raised hand had blocked the delivery from entering the zone of uncertainty between goalkeeper and defence.
Milner's conversion from the resulting penalty was not a signal for Liverpool to dominate thereafter, though. Swansea's reaction was not of tempestuous proportions and rather, the arrivals of Henderson and Sturridge disrupted Liverpool's flow.
Swansea did not convince that they would equalise but the effort suggested players are trying for Monk. "There's never been any doubt of that," Monk insisted. "Anyone who thinks otherwise is pretty stupid. But, of course, results are the be-all and end-all. We have to get them very quickly. And I understand that." (© Daily Telegraph, London)