Jurgen Klopp knows Liverpool cannot continue to rely on late winners

Tom Morgan
The Telegraph
Firmino's late winner saved Liverpool from a potentially damaging draw - Liverpool FC
Firmino's late winner saved Liverpool from a potentially damaging draw - Liverpool FC

Not since Manchester United's glory years have snatched wins in the dying minutes been such a reccuring theme at the top of the Premier League.

Fergie time has morphed into Jergie time, and Liverpool's manager would rather we stopped going on about it. "I don't like to talk about it," he said of his side side striking a game-changing late goal for the fifth time this season in the league.

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Roberto Firmino's goalmouth scramble winner against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday retained Liverpool's commanding position, but the small print reveals that it has not been so easy. The reason Klopp is so coy is because his side have been far from invincible in defence.

The opening day's 4-1 triumph over Norwich was the last time Liverpool blew a team away in the league, and, more unnerving to Liverpool's defenders is the absence of a clean sheet since the end of September. Crystal Palace managed 16 shots against a Liverpool side who could readily claim that at least one of their centre-backs, two full-backs and their goalkeeper are among the very best in world football.

Like Aston Villa earlier this month, Palace were worthy of at least a point, and Andy Robertson, the rampaging left-back, was first to acknowledge that his team-mates "cannot keep relying" on late salvos. "Scoring late is good and enjoyable but we would much rather be 2-0 or 3-0 up and see out the game," he said. "We cannot keep relying on it but it is good we have that mentality and we did not panic because we have been in this position so many times. I think that is why we took control of the game and scored the winner."

Liverpool have kept just two clean sheets this season, compared to Leicester City's six. They would need to go on a remarkable run of shut-outs now to get anywhere near to last season's haul of 21 games without a goal conceded.

Robertson added that the side "want to keep more clean sheets, of course we do".

"Last season we had a better defensive record but did not have as many points so we need to put it into perspective," he added.

Robertson has been playing through the pain with an ankle injury, while Mo Salah was dropped to the bench while he nursed an ankle injury. Klopp said both will be fit to face Napoli in his side's return to Champions League duty.

The manager said "fitness-wise, it was difficult" on Saturday and "physically we had no advantage". When asked about another late winner - this time in the 85th minute - he added: "It was just about we knew that the game is 90 mins, or 95, or 98. That's what we have to expect and I was right. I felt in that period - I was not surprised when they scored - but I felt we would get a chance. You have to use it. You cannot take it for granted. I don't like to talk about it. I understand why you are asking. It's not like 'very good, seven minutes to go, we start winning now'. That's not what we are."

Brighton are up next week in the Premier League, a fixture which could extend Liverpool's unbeaten run in the top tier to 31 games, equalling the club's longest-ever run. "I have no clue about the record," Klopp said.

Palace, meanwhile, played as well as they had done all season, and thought they had opened the scoring from a James Tomkins header before it was ruled out following a lengthy VAR review into Jordan Ayew's off-the-ball push on Dejan Lovren. Wilfried Zaha finally returned to scoring form, levelling after Leroy Sane's opener, and the Palace frontman should have scored another goal in the dying seconds, but blazed over.

Saturday's match ended a horror run of fixtures for Palace, who faced Manchester City, Arsenal, Leicester, Chelsea and then Liverpool in consecutive matches. Up next for Palace are theoretically more favourable games against Burnley, Bournemouth, Watford and then rivals Brighton.

James McArthur said his teammates had been "very unfortunate" and "we are gutted we didn’t get at least a point.”

Player ratings

Crystal Palace 
Guaita 6; Van Aanholt 6, Cahill 6, Tomkins 7,  Ward 6; McArthur 6, Milivojevic 7, Kouyate 6; Zaha 7, Ayew 5, Townsend 8 Subs Hennessey (g), Dann, Meyer, McCarthy, Kelly (Ward 70) 6, Schlupp (Kouyate 72) 6, Benteke (Ayew 76) 7.

Mane 7, Firmino 8, Oxlade-Chamberlain 7; Wijnaldum 6, Fabinho 7, Henderson 6; Robertson 6, Lovren 6, Van Dijk 7, Alexander-Arnold 5, Alisson 6. Subs Adrian (g), Keita, Salah, Lallana, Gomez (Firmino 89), Henderson 6 (Milner 79), Origi (Oxlade-Chamberlain 64) 5.

Booked Fabinho. Referee Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)

Man of match: Firmino.


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