Premier League • England

Klopp labels Liverpool star ‘exceptional’, but bemoans ‘improvable’ element that threatened to derail Newcastle win

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp was thrilled with the finish of one of Liverpool’s goalscorers, though lamented an “absolutely improvable” aspect of their victory over Newcastle.

Liverpool kept their hopes of a remarkable surge towards fourth spot alive with a 2-0 victory against Newcastle. The game was end-to-end in the early going, but it was the Reds who were clinical in the final third.

Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo both scored to give the hosts a mountain to climb. Newcastle’s task grew even greater in the 22nd minute.

A long ball over the top by Alisson Becker sent Mohamed Salah scampering away. Goalkeeper Nick Pope came out of his area to meet the Egyptian but wound up handling the ball to prevent Salah running through on goal.

The result was a straight red card and a one-game suspension that’ll rule Pope out of the EFL Cup final next Sunday.

Despite the man-advantage, Liverpool could not extend their lead after spurning several glorious opportunities. Diogo Jota and Andy Robertson were particularly guilty in that regard.

What’s more, but for the imperious Alisson, Newcastle could’ve and perhaps should’ve scored a goal that would’ve teed up a raucous final act.

In any case, Liverpool rounded out 2-0 victors and moved within six points of the Magpies in fourth place. The Reds also have a game in hand.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the match, Klopp said: “Massive result, clean sheet, two wonderful goals… and space for improvement obviously.

“We did really well, we scored wonderful goals. The red card probably stopped a wonderful goal as well after the quick restart [from Alisson].

“If Pope doesn’t get his hand on the ball then Mo probably would’ve scored from that. I would’ve taken that to be honest.

“Against 10 men we didn’t react particularly well. We lost the momentum and found it difficult to get back.

“Also Newcastle had nothing to lose at that moment and you could see that. Top team, top character, threw everything up the pitch and we gave them too many set pieces. At set pieces it’s not important how many players you have up the pitch.

“If we scored a third I think ‘that’s it’. We didn’t so it was exciting until the end.”

Klopp on Nunez, Gakpo goals

When asked what in particular he enjoyed about Nunez and Gakpo’s goals, the German added: “The ideas, the vision.

“The control of the ball for Darwin’s goal was exceptional, and obviously the pass from Trent and the pass from Mo for Cody.

“The movement from Cody, arriving there… you can see now that they’ve [played more together]. It’s very helpful.

“Obviously the most negative thing is Darwin had to go off (with a shoulder injury after a heavy fall).

“We would’ve changed him anyway but he has something with the shoulder. We have to see how serious it is, hopefully not too much.

“Clean sheet, first since April (away from home),” added a beaming yet bemused-looking Klopp. “I can’t believe that but yeah. (Author’s note: Liverpool actually kept an away clean sheet against Everton on September 3).

“Space for improvement but we know the situation we are in. To fight through these things and by scoring really nice goals and of course we could’ve scored more.

“A third goal would’ve been extremely helpful but we had to fight through until the end and that’s what we did.”

Liverpool must improve against 10 men – Klopp

Interviewer Geoff Shreeves then recalled Klopp’s comments after the victory over Everton on Monday night in which he claimed it’s about building and Liverpool won’t suddenly become perfect overnight.

“Exactly,” replied Klopp. “You need results, that’s how it is. The boys need to understand and feel it as well that if you do this and that then you have a good chance of being on the right side of the result.

“The way we played against 10 was absolutely improvable. It was like the relief of the 2-0 and then the red card, all of a sudden one step less, not intentionally, but it just happened.

“But in the end I’m really happy we got over the line because so many things have happened to us this season.

“This time, nothing really happened. We were not perfect but we were really good enough to win the game and that’s what we did.”

Klopp concluded by saying he “can’t wait” for the test of facing Real Madrid on Tuesday.

The first leg of the blockbuster Champions League Round of 16 clash will take place at Anfield on Tuesday at 8pm UK time.

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