Saturday 18 August 2018

Collective sense of injustice over Mané’s red card but it’s what followed that’ll worry Klopp


Manchester City’s Ederson feels the weight of Sadio Mane’s boot on
Saturday. Photo: Action Images via Reuters
Manchester City’s Ederson feels the weight of Sadio Mane’s boot on Saturday. Photo: Action Images via Reuters

Mark Critchley

The much-debated red card dished out to Sadio Mané may have dominated the post-match narrative following Liverpool's 5-0 defeat at Manchester City, but the all-round display which followed it will have been far more concerning for Jurgen Klopp.

It is common for heads to drop after a losing side goes down a man and then falls yet further behind on the scoresheet, as Liverpool did in an extended period of stoppage time at the end of the first-half, but the extent to which their performance deteriorated was of the like not seen before under Klopp.

Before Mané's dismissal on Saturday, Klopp's Liverpool had received just two red cards throughout his tenure: one for James Milner while trailing 1-0 at Crystal Palace before coming back to win in March 2016 and one two months later for Brad Smith as a second-string side was defeated by Swansea City.

It is therefore fair to say that once depleted at the Etihad, this group of players under this manager found themselves in an unfamiliar position. They needed a significant turnaround against a strong rival that could boast one player more than them. They also needed an improvement on an opening 45 minutes in which they had struggled to find the verve and flair present in their rout of Arsenal.

Instead, Liverpool began to look resigned to their fate, aware that they could no longer press and harry their opponents with one less player on the pitch. Klopp's side struggled with the alien 3-5-1 system and the withdrawal of Mohamed Salah, presumably with Wednesday night's visit of Sevilla in mind, left them without a counter-attacking outlet.

Once City began to expose them time and again, there was a sense that the white flag had been raised. More could certainly have been done to prevent Leroy Sané's second.

This submission, which saw Liverpool fail to register a single shot after the interval, can perhaps be explained by a collective sense of injustice following the pivotal sending-off.

Up until the decision from referee Jon Moss, this was a scrappy, bitty game. The orchestra met the heavy metal band, but it was all a bit 'Megadeath do the Proms': messy, chaotic and only bringing out the worst of both worlds.

The Mané red card only provoked further sound and fury, but the more the incident is reviewed, the less controversial a call it seems.

Those defending Mané can argue that a more lenient referee would have shown yellow rather than red, but that official would not have been following the letter of the law. Once his challenge had endangered Ederson's safety, the Senegalese was guilty of serious foul play - one of seven offences that, according to the laws of the game, should result in a red card.

It was a fair decision and even if Liverpool's players felt aggrieved, they should have sought to set things right, not resign themselves to defeat.

While some Liverpool fans are still bemoaning the club's failure to sign Virgil van Dijk from Southampton, Klopp - in fairness to him - was quick to dismiss talk of a more obvious absentee, Philippe Coutinho.

"I'm not sure it's quite that easy, but if we bring him (Coutinho) in and then everything is great again, then that's cool," said Klopp, defending the reasoning for initially prolonging his absence.

"This was the decision we took. If people blame me for this, no problem, but it was a decision taken for the season. He came back after a long flight, after three weeks without playing. We thought give him three or four days of training and then he's available."

For their part, City maximised the advantages of this encounter as ruthlessly as Liverpool did in their 4-0 defeat of Arsenal. It was also hard to think of a situation that was more suitable to a Guardiola team, as they were 2-0 up against 10 men and able to keep the ball as much as they wanted.

They did keep going at least, and kept exposing those holes in the Liverpool defence - something that is much more concerning than this actual defeat.

Whatever about Liverpool's readiness for the visit of Sevilla on Wednesday night, there is no doubt that City look primed for their trip to Feyenoord the same evening.

Irish Independent

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