Thursday 17 October 2019

Cautious Klopp doing his best to kill hype but title talk is now inevitable

Liverpool 4 Newcastle 0

Fabinho celebrates his goal with Virgil van Dijk. Photo: Getty
Fabinho celebrates his goal with Virgil van Dijk. Photo: Getty

Chris Bascombe

"Stop getting too excited," was Jurgen Klopp's Christmas message, an appeal for calm amid the increasing frenzy of Anfield title possibilities.

Some hope on the Kop.

Mohamed Salah scores his team's second goal. Photo: Getty
Mohamed Salah scores his team's second goal. Photo: Getty

Anfield was granted a preview of what the next six months might bring 82 minutes into their comfortable victory over Newcastle.

It began with a murmur until news of what would be Leicester City's winning goal over Manchester City swept from one stand to the next like a Mexican wave. This was received as vociferously as any of the four Liverpool scored, a hitherto sedate St Stephen's Day crowd transforming the atmosphere into one reminiscent of a classic European night.

"I thought it was because of us. Now I hear it was for another result," said Klopp.

"Obviously nobody told our crowd Tottenham won 5-0."

Xherdan Shaqiri of Liverpool (23) scores his team's third goal past Martin Dubravka of Newcastle United. Photo: Getty
Xherdan Shaqiri of Liverpool (23) scores his team's third goal past Martin Dubravka of Newcastle United. Photo: Getty

They will be welcoming the team bus to the Premier League games again soon, just as they did when Brendan Rodgers' side came so close in 2014.

Klopp will shield himself and protect his players from the hysteria as his side collect records but this noise is inevitable.

Remaining composed in the midst of it will be as challenging as maintaining the form that has put Liverpool into this position, six points ahead of second-placed Spurs, eradicating City's previously formidable goal-difference advantage and amassing an extraordinary 51 points from 19 fixtures.

There was a debate five years ago as to whether the heightened emotion of Liverpool's title chase helped or hindered the players and staff.

When it ended with an avoidable mistake, the naysayers fearing Liverpool were playing with more heart than head were vindicated.

Others reminded the world that Rodgers' Liverpool team won 16 of their 18 games from January 1 until the infamous home defeat by Chelsea.

Klopp would take a similar run now given the significance of the advantage.

His team are more controlled than any led by his immediate predecessors and are able to win games like this, with flawed performances albeit liberally sprinkled with class.

They were not at their best here. They did not have to be against a limp Newcastle.

A rout looked likely when Dejan Lovren struck the opener after 11 minutes with an Alan Shearer-esque finish.

The hammering did not immediately materialise.

Newcastle were set up for damage limitation but Matt Ritchie's left foot was a potent weapon and a striker more adept than Joselu would have made more of the perfect delivery - the best chance squandered on eight minutes.

Yoshinori Muto also wasted a perfect Kenedy set-piece, glancing tamely at Alisson when unmarked in the penalty area.

These were fleeting but encouraging moments for the visitors, yet hope of a revival ended when Paul Dummett was adjudged to have shoved Mohamed Salah in the penalty area two minutes into the second half.

Benitez indicated it was a poor decision. The Egyptian picked his spot for his 15th of the season and from there the gulf in class was clearer, Xherdan Shaqiri's tap-in and Fabinho's first for his club decorating the scoreline.

All Newcastle could cling to was a debut for academy graduate Sean Longstaff.

"A perfect day, not a perfect performance," acknowledged Klopp.

He consciously played down the meaning of the extended lead at the top.

"That means nothing," he said. "We play Arsenal and then City. What we wanted to do was build a basis for the rest of the season.

"We want to create our own history so to be unbeaten (from) the first (day) of the season, conceding (just) seven goals, is good. A little history. But there are 19 games to go. I had no idea how and where the other teams were playing. Afterwards, I got the result and I have to say it didn't do a lot for me.

"It is just information. We have to win our games and stay focused. We need (to have) tunnel vision and see where it will lead."

Benitez was the last off the pitch, acknowledging the effort of his players and the appreciative chanting from the Kop that will never forget his Champions League triumph when Liverpool manager. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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