Klopp pays tribute to players as Liverpool halt mini crisis
Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0
When Anfield had emptied out and Liverpool's title bid was back on track, Jurgen Klopp said that there are always difficult times in the season when no-one wants to hear excuses for why points have been dropped, although his faith in his players has never once wavered.
The Liverpool manager left the pitch throwing that celebratory uppercut for the benefit of the home fans, who had seen their own side incapacitate the visitors well before the hour and could have scored six by the end.
This was a return to the vintage attacking form of Liverpool before they dropped four points over their previous two games, even if, for Klopp, the essence of his determined, hard-working side had never gone away.
There was a formidable goalscoring performance from the midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, who got off his sickbed to play, and the sheer 90-plus minutes relentlessness of Andy Robertson was compelling once again. Yet when Roberto Firmino rolled his studs over the ball at full speed to play a pass inside for Mohamed Salah to score the third it felt like Anfield had its moment. This was a level of technical quality and team-play with which Bournemouth simply could not live.
Later Klopp would show his indignation about the doubt that has surrounded his team following their draws against Leicester City and West Ham. Wijnaldum had been sufficiently ill this week that the doctor forbade him from staying at the team hotel on Friday night for fear of spreading his infection but the midfielder declared himself available nonetheless. Klopp said: "To be honest I was only concerned after he scored a goal that everyone gave him a hug".
He said he had been similarly dismayed on being told that James Milner, deputising at right-back again, had been criticised following the West Ham game. "These players, the character and mentality of these boys is the only reason we are where we are," Klopp said. "In moments when you don't get a result, people doubt that immediately. It's the world. Predictable. But still not true."
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Klopp said, had trained twice, before making a return from injury as a second half substitute. Jordan Henderson had only been permitted to train at "85 per cent" by the doctor his manager said - "try doing that" - and yet was named on the bench. Even so, Liverpool are back on top of the Premier League and even if Manchester City retake that position on goal difference with victory over Chelsea, there is still the safety of a game in hand.
They are playing football of an uncommon standard at Liverpool and in those closing stages when Eddie Howe's team opened up and attacked there seemed to be as much danger for the away team when they had an attacking corner as when the home team did.
Wijnaldum and Fabinho dominated the Bournemouth midfield and out on the right side there was a difficult return for Jordon Ibe. The winger was pursued in possession of the ball and robbed of it in the turnover for Wijnaldum's goal. From Robertson's ball over the top to Wijnaldum the Dutchman was allowed the time by his compatriot Nathan Ake to pitch a perfect lob over Artur Boruc,
Howe called the decision by referee Anthony Taylor to allow the first goal to stand "a huge moment in the match". The second goal from Wijnaldum, he said, was "self-inflicted." "It's not our defensive structure in moments like that," he said. "It's individual mistakes."
After six goals in two wins over West Ham and Chelsea, Howe's side have now lost away at Cardiff and Anfield. It is the away record that looks the worst, although the Bournemouth manager sees it differently. "It is difficult for us," he said. "I don't think it is home form and away form, just inconsistencies. We have had inconsistencies, probably since we picked up our long-term injuries. That is what we are looking to put right."
After Milner's ball in for Mane's goal, and then Robertson's assist for Wijnaldum, the best was yet to come. The boot rolled over the ball by Firmino redirected a 48th minute attack down the right channel behind Ake and into the path of Salah, who finished into the bottom corner past Boruc's right hand. Salah now has 49 goals in 62 league games for Liverpool and is the first player at the club since Luis Suarez to score 20 goals in two consecutive seasons.
"He was pretty much undefendable," Klopp said of his Egyptian striker. "It was an outstanding game. It is exactly the football he is able to play and we want him to play … Mo is obviously a pretty cool finisher." Once again it is over to City, although whatever happens in Manchester today, the standard required for the rest of the season for both these clubs is clear - and it is very high indeed.