Jurgen Klopp admits to being blown away when winning first ever game at St James Park
Jurgen Klopp was a relieved man at full-time.
He knew his team had been in a real game.
He also knew they had been in a real atmosphere.
It might have been a game that could help decide the Premier League title but it was so much more than that.
As usual…Newcastle United weren’t playing for a trophy BUT there is so much at stake.
The future of Rafa Benitez and indeed the football club, what happens with the manager’s contract position is all but certain to send the club in one of two directions.
No wonder Jurgen Klopp admitted after the final whistle to feeling blown away: ‘Is there any history between Newcastle and Liverpool that I don’t know about? The atmosphere was like there was something that happened in the past.’
No, it is all about what is/isn’t happening in the here and now. Jurgen Klopp and his team lucky to escape with a fortunate win, having faced a Newcastle United where everybody of a black and white persuasion, on and off the pitch, was well up for this.
Jurgen Klopp was not quite so complimentary about NUFC’s choice of tactics: ‘The style of play of Newcastle is not really to defend with tactical moves, it is just a long ball, Rondon is fighting for it and then you wait for the decision of the ref, foul or no foul. If it’s no foul you have to carry on and if it is a foul, it is a free-kick in either direction. That means you cannot do it with a proper formation, you have to do it with legs, with runs and stuff like that – and that makes it even more intense.’
The simple FACT is that Rafa Benitez picks the tactics to match the opposition and the players he has available. Without Miguel Almiron it means Newcastle have lost the player who could run at speed with the ball and trouble the opposition, something which has helped raise the levels of results and quality of play since he arrived, with the likes of Perez feeling the benefits.
Whilst at times it was the long ball to Rondon, Newcastle did also mix it up and play a lot of good football as well. As the stats show, Newcastle had more efforts on goal and shots on target than the visitors, the luck definitely being on Liverpool’s side as well, with the woodwork stopping Perez’ effort, the dive from Fabinho that got the lame free-kick they scored the winner from, not forgetting how lucky they were that Atsu’s goal saved them from a red card and penalty which would very likely have changed the final result.
Jurgen Klopp talking to official Liverpool site:
“There is a lot to talk about…we could talk about football tonight, we could talk purely about showing real heart, showing real passion and showing real desire. It was just brilliant.
“Newcastle showed it as well, unbelievable – they gave us a proper game.
“I think in our situation with all the circumstances around, some people probably expected us to show a bit of nerves and the boys didn’t. It was just a difficult game for difficult reasons.
“Of course, playing three days ago it was most intense, running-wise we had the highest number of kilometres in Barcelona and then three days later we come to Newcastle and this is obviously not a friendly game tonight.
“The style of play of Newcastle is not really to defend with tactical moves, it is just a long ball, Rondon is fighting for it and then you wait for the decision of the ref, foul or no foul. If it’s no foul you have to carry on and if it is a foul, it is a free-kick in either direction. That means you cannot do it with a proper formation, you have to do it with legs, with runs and stuff like that – and that makes it even more intense, that’s why it makes sense to keep the ball. That’s what we tried a lot of times, we did it really well in a lot of moments.
“I liked the body language, always when we passed the ball around, but around the first goal it was not that good because you keep the ball, but not for keeping it but for creating a situation or a gap or a passing option. In that moment, all of a sudden because the intention was not right, we were under a bit of pressure.
“We played a not-so-good pass to Ali, a long ball, it comes back, 1-1. I liked the reaction of the boys, I didn’t see any major concerns apart from we conceded a goal, which is not cool.
“Our goals were wonderful. The first goal, Pete Krawietz and Greg and James, our analysts, what they do around set-pieces is unbelievable. It is really nice to see. Having Virgil van Dijk completely free in the box is pretty rare, it was a wonderful routine. We scored a second one, nice cross again from Trent and Mo is there. But then they scored their goal and then it is not too long to go anymore, we have to sub Mo, not cool. We have fresh players on the bench, try to have an impact – and they had [an impact].
“It was a wonderful free-kick from Shaq and sensational header from Divock and we win the game. We are now qualified for the league final, which is brilliant.
“So crucial [the winning goal]. What can I say? It is just brilliant, it is like a fairytale. You can say whatever you want about me – they don’t play often enough, Shaqiri not often enough. I make this decision. It is great that they do it, I love it. That was really a big moment.”
On whether he was concerned at one point everything seemed to be going against Liverpool?
“No. I would have been happy if it was still 2-2 and I saw the injury time, but in that moment we were 3-2 up and I saw the injury time so it was the other way around. Eight minutes… wow! We had a lot of time to play and a lot of time to defend!
“I accepted long ago that we do everything, absolutely everything, the boys throw whatever they have on the pitch, so that means whether we are champions or not, it is destiny. We do everything and we cannot do more – can you get more than 94 points? Can you get more in all the other stuff? Not really.
“The boys tried everything, even in the draws, they tried everything to win the games. It is all good. We tried to have influence, so it was clear it didn’t happen for a while with set-pieces, that’s true. We didn’t have them, so in this moment we had one and we used it. I really think it was deserved.
“Yes, they came a bit up after 2-2, it is normal. [Newcastle] had no game three days ago, we had a game, so it’s absolutely normal. I really loved how calm the boys still were. The calmness was always interrupted by a long ball for Rondon and then it’s chaos! The ball coming down, you have to collect it or not.
“On the other side, how many quick re-starts did we have with Robbo on the left side? It is just incredible. When Ali had the ball and threw it there, nobody reacted as quickly as Robbo and Ali. Wow, what a race, what a game that was.
“The boys showed in each second they really wanted to win it. We knew what we had to do and the boys did it in a very difficult game.
“Credit to Newcastle, that was, wow… any people who doubt or whatever that teams don’t play for anything anymore, or maybe are halfway on the beach already, they were really the opposite.
“Is there any history between Newcastle and Liverpool that I don’t know about? The atmosphere was like there was something that happened in the past. The boys, again, were ready to face it, ready to deal with it and that’s brilliant.”
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 2 Liverpool 3
Atsu 20, Rondon 54
van Dijk 13, Salah 28, Origi 86
Possession was Liverpool 69% Newcastle 31%
Total shots were Liverpool 11 Newcastle 14
Shots on target were Liverpool 4 Newcastle 7
Corners were Liverpool 3 Newcastle 2
Referee: Andre Marriner
Dubravka, Manquillo, Schar (Muto 90+1, Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie, Hayden, Ki, Atsu, Perez, Rondon
Darlow, Barreca, Diame, Shelvey, Kenedy, Fernandez
Crowd: 52,206 ,587 (3,200+ Liverpool)
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