Friday 27 April 2018

Coutinho double delights Klopp as Mourinho's mood darkens

Chelsea 1 Liverpool 3

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates his team’s win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge yesterday with Mamadou Sakho
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates his team’s win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge yesterday with Mamadou Sakho
Christian Benteke scores the third goal for Liverpool
Christian Benteke celebrates with team mates after scoring the third goal for Liverpool

Stamford Bridge

The celebrations in the Liverpool dressing room could be heard down the corridor at Stamford Bridge yesterday, which can't have helped Jose Mourinho's mood.

If he was feeling paranoid - and when isn't he? - Mourinho might have wondered what exactly Liverpool were celebrating. They had won for the first time in the Premier League under Jurgen Klopp and they had moved up to seventh in the table, but the defeat was even more significant than the victory.

No matter what soothing noises are made, Mourinho is heading towards the exit at Chelsea as he seems helpless to arrest the staggering decline. Chelsea are the champions of England and whatever problems Mourinho thought he'd be facing this season, he can't have imagined he would find himself being asked on the last day of October if he was confident he'd be given the time to rebuild this shattered and broken side.

Mourinho refused to comment on the game's contentious issues, including Mark Clattenburg's decision not to send off Lucas for a second bookable offence, instead asking the journalists to give their opinion, suggesting he will provide them with some 'personality' next time, so they would say what they saw. "You will not be punished by the FA, I will be punished if I tell you. Are you afraid of what?"

Roman Abramovich was not at the game and the indications from Chelsea are that Mourinho will not be sacked. The feeling is that a couple of wins will change the mood around the club, but there was little evidence here that his players are capable of any change in the short term. There is even less evidence that Mourinho's mood is going to improve as he mutters darkly about things that "are out of our hands" and embraces every event as evidence of a great and unending conspiracy.

Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas were left out for this game as Mourinho tried to change things again. John Obi Mikel had impressed against West Ham last week, but when Mikel is giving the side a boost, then standards are slipping.

The supporters chanted Mourinho's name throughout the game and they began to sing it for the first time in the fourth minute, just before Ramires headed them in front. This seemed to be the opportunity Chelsea needed, but they took no heart from that goal. Instead, just as they had when losing at home to Southampton, they retreated and allowed Liverpool to play. When Philippe Coutinho equalised with a stunning goal in injury-time, Mourinho was unhappy that the half was still being played.

Klopp had received some criticism for not effecting greater change more quickly since he arrived at Anfield, with a few people wondering how Brendan Rodgers would have been treated if he'd achieved similar results. The distinction between a manager a couple of weeks into a job and a manager who was not seemed to have been lost on these critics and maybe it needed to be gently explained to them in the manner of Ted pointing out to Dougal the difference between small and far away.

This was far from a flawless performance from Liverpool, but it was one Klopp could enthuse about. Again, Liverpool worked hard to win the ball back high up the field, while players like Nathaniel Clyne, Lucas, Mamadou Sakho and Nathaniel Clyne are grasping what is demanded from them.

They can't avoid Klopp's demands as he spends his time wanting more from his players as he moves along the edge of his technical area.

They weren't the only ones who were challenged and after one loud complaint accompanied by some vigorous windmilling of his arms in the direction of the fourth official Lee Mason, Mourinho's sense of persecution grew.

"If I did the same, If I did the same," he said to Mason before, he claimed later, he was told to shut up.

Events on the field added to the feelings of injustice as Lucas escaped a second yellow for a foul on Ramires despite the efforts of the Chelsea players to get him sent off.

Liverpool had been advancing, although Oscar had gone close with one effort from just inside Liverpool's half, and with Christian Benteke on for James Milner, they had an effective target man. When Benteke headed the ball into Coutinho's path, he was able to shake off the defenders too easily before placing the ball past Begovic again, this time with his right foot.

Klopp restrained himself on the sideline, but when Benteke scored the third, he let loose.

Afterwards, he was asked if Liverpool could now challenge for the title. "Oh, please. Are you crazy?" he said, which probably indicated how far they have to go.

Mourinho insisted it had been a fine performance from his players who "are not getting the respect they deserve", but the failure to close down players for the last two Liverpool goals told a different story.

"I feel for him, he is a great coach," Klopp said later. "Things like this happen. Today we were here for the three points, not to help change the situation for Chelsea." The situation remains the same at Chelsea, but surely not for much longer.

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