Klopp plays down Salah substitution and urges Liverpool to ‘fight harder’

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Jürgen Klopp has told Liverpool’s players to “fight harder” and played down Mohamed Salah’s reaction to being substituted during the defeat against Chelsea on Thursday.

The Premier League champions endured another blow in the race to qualify for the Champions League and have now lost five consecutive home games for the first time in their 129‑year history.

Liverpool face a huge battle to save their season after they faltered again at Anfield, dropping into seventh place after succumbing to a fine first‑half goal from Mason Mount. Klopp’s side struggled throughout and are four points behind Chelsea, who climbed back into fourth place continuing their unbeaten start under Thomas Tuchel.

Chelsea were deserved winners and rarely looked like being denied their first victory at Anfield since 2014. It was another blunt display from Liverpool, who have been in a crisis of confidence since losing their 68-game unbeaten run at home. They barely created anything, with Salah struggling before being taken off, and Klopp admitted he delivered an honest assessment in the dressing room.

“I told the boys what I saw tonight,” Liverpool’s manager said. “It’s not that we go for any kind of excuses in this moment. These games are decided in moments and to get these moments back you have to fight. In some moments you have to fight on a different level. That’s what I told the boys. It’s not about tactics or something like that. It’s really about being resilient. It’s about heart. I don’t say the boys didn’t show heart.

“But we talk about the last decisive 2, 3, 4 per cent and it never happened that we will start blaming the circumstances. That’s just not the case. We had a good team. A really good team on the pitch and we played in a lot of moments good football, but not in decisive moments good enough. There’s only one person or group to criticise: that’s me, that’s us. That’s what I told the boys.”

Liverpool, who have won three of their past 13 league games, are in a rut. Their winless run at Anfield stretches back seven games and they have lost their touch in front of goal, with Salah’s form a concern.

The forward struggled to hide his disappointment after being replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 62nd minute, his earliest substitution since September 2017, and there was a potential headache for Klopp when Salah’s agent, Ramy Abbas Issa, sparked intrigue with a cryptic tweet during the game, posting a single full stop.

“I’m happy when the boys look disappointed, that’s not a problem,” Klopp said. “I didn’t see it from Mo. The reason for the sub was I could have changed other players as well but the reason was he looked like he felt the intensity and I didn’t want to risk him. That’s all. It’s really rare and usually Mo looks surprisingly fresh until the end. I thought he didn’t look fresh any more. The last two or three years have nothing to do with that.”

While Klopp digested “a massive blow”, Chelsea celebrated moving a point above Everton before hosting Carlo Ancelotti’s side on Monday. It was an impressive display from Tuchel’s side, who could have won by more given that Timo Werner had a goal controversially disallowed for offside by VAR before Mount’s winner.

“We played with courage,” the Chelsea manager said. “We had moments where we needed to suffer but we never lost the attitude to defend. It was a very deserved win and a big result. When you play at Anfield you have no time to think. We told the players we need nothing extra super special, we told the players we need courage to escape the pressure. It was a very good performance.”

Source: The Guardian

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