Belfast Telegraph

Jurgen Klopp goes on defensive over Liverpool's problems at the back

Liverpool 2 West Brom 1

By Simon Hughes

A corner. A goalkeeper reacting like David James after a night playing on computer consoles. West Bromwich Albion's hulking players barging past Liverpool's defenders to meet the cross. They score. An inquest.

Liverpool won in the end and it was fair of Jurgen Klopp to remind that if performance was equaled by reward, the margin of victory would have been more convincing than it was.

Philippe Coutinho was at his trickiest - a season's best for him, helping unlock the visiting side's defensive plan for Liverpool's first goal, then sliding in the second before half-time.

Klopp rarely answers questions about individuals so that might explain why he was not asked to comment about the Brazilian's role. Liverpool were not quite clinging on during three minutes of injury time because they were still creating chances.

Yet the tension across Anfield's terraces was tangible and ultimately it explains why Klopp was probed about the way Liverpool finished, with defensive inequalities the theme.

"It is not the same problem we had last year," Klopp insisted. "I like it more than when they create chances whenever they want because then we defend like crazy. I'm fine with this for the moment but only for the moment. For tonight I don't care how we conceded, as we won and it was well deserved."

When one journalist told Klopp people doubt Liverpool mainly because of the way they concede goals like Gareth McAuley's here, Klopp fought back the suggestion.

"Really, I've heard this a few times and I lose respect when people say this. It's not important because I don't have to respect everybody and you can say what you want but I cannot say more," he said.

"If people say we have some issues with set pieces how can I say they are wrong? I think 70/80% of the goals we've conceded are from set pieces. But they are all different and we are still working on it. We defended well against United brilliantly, and tonight it was so difficult - but we have no defensive problem."

If Tony Pulis is to be believed, it is the attacking threat of Liverpool's front five that will define whether they are successful or not. Pulis did not need to be asked about Liverpool's title credentials inside Anfield's new press room. Instead, he offered his thoughts voluntarily, revealing that he believes Klopp's team have a genuine chance because they do not have the distraction of European fixtures unlike their competitors.

Klopp later just about accepted the Pulis's praise but was not prepared to take it at face value.

"I played in Europe before and actually it never stopped us doing what we had to do," he said.

"Playing good football is a big advantage, having good players is a big advantage, don't play in the week can be a big advantage when you get injuries.

"You need the time we have for training. Where it will lead us to I've no idea. In December and January a few other teams will not have Europe.

"I'm not sure if it was meant to be nice or a compliment or to make pressure on us, I've no idea but thank you and I'll tell the players."

LIVERPOOL: Karius, Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner, Henderson, Can, Lallana (Wijnaldum, 79 mins), Coutinho, Mane (Origi, 90 mins), Firmino. Unused subs: Mignolet, Moreno, Klavan, Lucas, Sturridge.

WEST BROM: Foster, Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, Nyom, Phillips (Morrison, 51 mins), Yacob (Brunt, 46 mins), Fletcher, McClean (Robson-Kanu, 65 mins), Chadli, Rondon. Unused subs: Myhill, Galloway, Gardner, Leko.

Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire)

Man of the match: Joel Matip

Match rating: 7/10

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