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Klopp concedes Liverpool face top-four fight after Manchester United stalemate

Mark Dobson
·5-min read
<span>Photograph: Michael Regan/PA</span>
Photograph: Michael Regan/PA

Jürgen Klopp defended his misfiring champions after Liverpool failed to knock Manchester United off their Premier League perch but admits his side now face a battle to stay in the top four.

The front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané endured an off-day as Klopp’s men could not break down United at Anfield. It was Liverpool’s third successive league match without a goal.

Related: Manchester United stay top after taking point in tense tussle with Liverpool

Indeed, United could have snatched victory had it not been for two fine saves by Alisson who denied Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba in the second half. The stalemate left Liverpool with some work to do if they are to defend their title but Klopp is seemingly more concerned about remaining in the Champions League places.

He said: “I have to qualify for the Champions League and I know how difficult that is. This season will be a tough race for the top four that is for sure. Football fans are not the most patience species on this planet. They want to win each football game.

“I am not too different from that. But I am long enough in the business to know that there are more difficult periods. And this is not the most difficult period I have been through in my life, it’s not even close. We have to be patient.”

On the match, Klopp was satisfied with the performance, if not the finishing. He said: “I saw my team playing tonight a really good team with a clear idea with super passes and great counter-pressing and great desire to score and we didn’t score.

“We will create chances and we will score. I think the performance was good enough to win it but to win a game you have to score goals and we didn’t do that, so that’s why we had that result. There is nothing fundamentally different, it is just the result is different.”

Since the 7-0 demolition of Crystal Palace last month, Liverpool have dropped points against West Brom, Newcastle and Southampton. They now face a testing end to January with Burnley, Tottenham and West Ham next up in the league and a trip to Old Trafford in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Klopp, though, remains unconcerned by Liverpool’s apparent drop‑off. “There is no easy explanation [for their recent lack of goals],” the manager said. “You always miss chances. You have to keep going and try to ignore the talk around it. Everyone wants to see goals. You cannot force it.

“It’s football. These moments happen. You have moments where you can’t explain why you score from all angles. Against Crystal Palace everything ended up in the net. It’s a bit annoying in between these moments.

“I like the game. I saw a lot of really good individual performances and the team performance was good. Not the result we wanted, but the result we got.”

Despite coming into the match as the league leaders, United were happy to sit back for much of the contest and Ole Gunnar Solskjær left Anfield disappointed with his side’s display.

Speaking to Sky Sports, he said: “I think we grew in the game and towards the end it was there for us to win. We created two massive chances and it was two brilliant saves by the keeper.

“They are a good side and they have some injury problems but we didn’t pounce on that. We can play better than this, we can be more composed, we can have the ball more. We had to defend really often today. There are a couple of things for us to improve on.”

“It’s only a good result if we win the next game. It was an opportunity missed with the chances we had but then again we were playing a very good side. I’m disappointed but still a point is OK. We were stronger towards the end. We didn’t start at all in the first half. It’s not just the result we’re disappointed with, it’s some of the performance. I know these boys can play better. Coming away from here with one point and the players are disappointed is a good feeling.’

The Liverpool captain, Jordan Henderson, pinpointed a “strange” decision from the referee Paul Tierney to blow his whistle early for half-time, when Mané was racing through on goal. “We weren’t happy with that, as you can imagine. [It was] strange, very strange,” he said.

Related: Manchester City 4-0 Crystal Palace: Premier League – live!

“I think he’s through on goal if he doesn’t blow. We were frustrated at half-time but still plenty of time for us to score the goal, but again lacked that quality in the last bit.

“I thought we did enough to win the game, especially first half [we had] a lot of the ball, creating chances, just couldn’t find the back of the net really but they had one or two chances as well to be fair to them. Overall I felt that we were the better team to win the game. [The final third] seems to be the problem at the minute, in the box just finding that little bit of luck to drop to someone and get a clean strike on it or it ricochets off someone and goes in. That can happen in football sometimes – you’ve just got to keep working hard.”

The United captain, Harry Maguire, said: “I thought they started the game better and then in the second half we came into it. We were a lot braver on the ball and we created the best few chances of the game.

“It was cagey but it was two good teams matching up and we found it difficult the first half to get a rhythm to the game, the press was high – we knew it was going to be high but the intensity ... we didn’t get the rhythm with the ball.”