Wednesday 15 August 2018

Klopp cranky after Reds' error-strewn Euro hangover

Liverpool 0 Stoke City 0

Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino goes down under a challenge from Stoke City’s Erik Pieters. Photo: Reuters
Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino goes down under a challenge from Stoke City’s Erik Pieters. Photo: Reuters

John Percy

This was supposed to be the day when Mohamed Salah, the conqueror of Roma, broke a Premier League record. But from the moment he produced an unexpected miss in the fifth minute, Liverpool suffered the ultimate hangover after the champagne sparkle of their Champions League semi-final.

Jurgen Klopp's frustration boiled over early in the second half with an angry tirade at the supporters behind him, and this was an excruciating afternoon that must have seemed like the equivalent of a visit to the dentist for Liverpool's boss.

The drab stalemate damages Klopp's hopes of overhauling Manchester United in second place and provided Stoke's Paul Lambert with renewed hope of beating the drop.

Lambert has never lost at Anfield as a manager and that record never really looked in danger. Stoke were resilient, stubborn and defensively strong.

The only question for them is whether the point has come too late. They also received a slice of fortune towards the end after Erik Pieters appeared to handle in the area in front of the Kop.

Liverpool, meanwhile, will travel to Rome early this week with that 5-2 advantage and the consolation that they can surely not play as poorly again.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Klopp said: "We didn't score so it's not the best day of my life but it's definitely not the worst. I saw everything I wanted to see except fluency and fun and joy. It is not our best game, of course not. For me it looked a penalty, a clear one. Maybe in the Champions League against Manchester City we were lucky, in the Premier League, not one time. We should have got more penalties, we don't have them."

Despite his remarkable season, Salah has now missed 21 clear goalscoring opportunities in the league, more than any other player.

There were suggestions he would be rested for Wednesday's reunion in the Italian capital but that record is firmly in his sights. He is currently level on 31 league goals with Alan Shearer, Luis Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 32nd was there for the taking early in the game. Stoke's offside trap went horribly awry and the Egyptian was bearing down on goal with only Jack Butland to beat, but although he dinked the ball over the goalkeeper, it drifted wide. That set the tone for an error-strewn performance.

Stoke City's Ramadan Sobhi in action with Liverpool's Joe Gomez. Photo: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters
Stoke City's Ramadan Sobhi in action with Liverpool's Joe Gomez. Photo: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters

Stoke are nearly at the stage where snookers are required to extend their 10-year stay in the Premier League. They were chasing the ball for lengthy periods and required Butland to deny Trent Alexander-Arnold from close range with a fine save. Yet Liverpool were disjointed, tentative and lethargic. Stoke's fortune was also increasing, as Salah sent a free-kick wide after a Butland fumble before Danny Ings had an effort ruled out for offside.

You could also hear a pin drop when Jordan Henderson went down late in the first half after a collision with Xherdan Shaqiri. The mood was darkening and Klopp lost it with supporters behind him after they jeered a stray pass from Alberto Moreno, furiously raising his arms.

His anger increased when Pieters appeared to handle Salah's cross in the area. It could have been worse because Stoke came close to a memorable win when Mame Diouf hooked the ball past Loris Karius and Ryan Shawcross failed to connect at the far post.

"We dealt with everything thrown at us and defended brilliantly," said Lambert. "I've still never lost here as a manager or a player and it's not a bad run to have."

Telegraph

Telegraph.co.uk

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