Jurgen Klopp labelled one of his stars “absolutely insane” after his Aston Villa showing, and endorsed Steven Gerrard to succeed him in the Anfield dugout.
Liverpool kept the pressure up on their title rivals when securing a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Aston Villa. The pre-match headlines were dominated by Steven Gerrard’s return to Anfield. However, once the first whistle blew, nothing short of ensuring his return ended in defeat would do for the Reds.
Liverpool were blunted in a rare off-colour first half. But after the break, they began to hit their stride.
Even so, it was left to the mercurial Mohamed Salah to find the breakthrough. The Egyptian first won then converted a penalty in what proved to be the decisive moments of the match.
Speaking to the BBC after the match, Klopp said: “The first 75 minutes was incredible football. It’s difficult. The opponent defended compact. It looked really good, we played in the spaces we wanted to play but we did not finish the situations which is tricky.
“We came out in the second half and knew we had to keep going – and improve in moments.
“[We] were not calm enough in the last pass. We kept going. We scored with the penalty then the relief was obviously too big and it was an unnecessary open game. Like tooth pain! Nobody needs that. There are areas to improve even when we win football games, which is good.
“I really thought before the game, with Alisson in his shorts and top, that is not a lot for this game today.
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“Yes those moments were there, I don’t want Alisson to be busy in a game to be honest. It is something we will talk about and hopefully it does not become a pattern, or whatever.”
Klopp then turned his attention to Salah, hailing the Egyptian as “Absolutely insane.”
“We all think penalty,” he continued. “Everybody wishes in the moment to take the penalty but he finishes it off.
“The whole game was not the easiest but the triangles we had on the right and left wing was really outstanding. In the end we did not have enough bodies in the box in the first half.”
“I would love it to be Stevie” – Klopp
On Steven Gerrard, who dominated the pre-match discourse, Klopp said: “The good thing is I have no problem with this sort of thing.
“I will not be here forever so I would love it to be Stevie! But no I did not feel under pressure today.”
Van Dijk on title race, Gerrard reception
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk also spoke to the press, saying: “I enjoy every game that I play.
“It was always going to be a tough game. We knew we’d have to be patient and fight for every ball. That’s the least you have to do against this team. They created some moments of danger but not many big chances I feel right now. I think we deserved the win.
“It’s always a good feeling when it hits the back of the net. I think we should have done better even after getting the goal to keep the ball and play through them. We didn’t do it too well. But it’s 1-0 and a clean sheet so we can’t be too hard on ourselves.”
On title race, Van Dijk added: “I don’t know. That’s something we shouldn’t talk about.
“We focus on the game ahead of us and Villa was a tough game. We got the three points and that’s all that matters. The season is long. So many twists and turns to go. The three teams are going quite well at the moment but the season is long.”
The Dutchman then said of the warm reception Liverpool gave opposing manager Steven Gerrard: “Yeah, deserved. He is Liverpool throughout.
“If you think about Liverpool, you think about Stevie G. He is a legend and always will be. He will always be welcomed here. It was emotional for him I don’t think he can deny it. It was good to see him back.”