Jurgen Klopp refused to blame a title hangover after his Liverpool side were thrashed 4-0 by Manchester City and highlighted where there problems were in their first match as champions.
The Reds endured a sobering return to action as City, the side whose Premier League crown they took last week, served a ruthless reminder of their enduring quality at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday. In fact the Reds were handed their second heaviest defeat of Klopp’s near five-year reign.
The outstanding Kevin De Bruyne began the rout from the penalty spot before further goals from the equally impressive Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden before half-time. An own goal from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain completed the scoring.
After finally ending a 30-year title drought and losing just one other match all season, Liverpool could perhaps be excused an off-night.
But manager Klopp insisted his side were still on top of their game.
“It has nothing to do with last week. It hurts like defeats hurt,” he said.
“What I wanted to see was who is ready to fight against Man City, who obviously had a point to prove. It was easy motivation for Pep.
“We were in the game, we were fighting, we were running. We did everything we could. Was it perfect? No. The problem is if you are not perfect and meet Man City, then you lose, and the result can be not so nice.
“If there is a team in the world that can smash us like this it is probably City, but we will come again.”
After receiving a guard of honour from City, Liverpool started well and hit the post through Mohamed Salah.
But City dominated after De Bruyne’s 25th-minute penalty, making light of what had been a 23-point gap between the sides prior to the game.
“If anyone thought before the game that the quality gap between City and Liverpool is 20 or 23 points I cannot help these people,” Klopp said.
“Football is not about that, football is about winning games and we did that in an impressive manner to be honest. I saw pretty much all the City games and even the games they lost, they were good. Unbelievable.
“That is the truth, it is not that they didn’t perform or whatever, it is just the opponent scored and tonight that was the case. We had our chances tonight and we usually make the most from those more often than not, but tonight we didn’t at all.
“So we conceded a penalty and I was completely happy with the start of the game to be honest. We were there, we pressed them and felt comfortable. Both teams pressed high and tried to play football, when do we see that? We don’t see that a lot.
“That was all good but in the very decisive moments, City was better tonight. We cannot change that.”
With six games to go Klopp’s side are still in the hunt to beat City’s 100-points tally set in 2018.
He added: “It is [a motivating factor] but we cannot force that. To get there we have to win football games. And we didn’t do that tonight.
“In the first place, we have to be ready for Aston Villa and the points tally at the end of the season is the result. We talk about football and sometimes you cannot force it. We have to accept it.
Problems were at set-pieces
“These kinds of situations we very often use, but not tonight. Our problems were set-pieces a bit tonight.
“A penalty and two throw-ins with all the quality they have, they scored in these situations and kind on counter-attacks and if you are not perfect then you will be punished.”
“Results matter a lot but I don’t look just for results, that is true. We want to win and that is the only reason we get on the training ground, the only reason we go to away games is to win football games.
“We were fighting, we were running and we did everything we could tonight. Was it perfect? No. But that happens from time to time.
“The only problem is if you are not perfect against Manchester City then you lose. It is not so nice but that is all.
“It was a challenge to come here. It’s a tough place to come regardless of our situation, winning the league, relegation, whatever. But we showed we can cause City problems tonight. ”