Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists his side’s defending appears worse than it actually is – but that is little consolation after another shaky display in the 2-2 draw against an understrength Wolves which opened up their bid to retain the FA Cup.
Alisson Becker gifting Goncalo Guedes the opener with a sloppy pass did not help the Brazil goalkeeper’s hopes of keeping a first clean sheet in seven matches.
Brilliant finishes from Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah – his 173rd for the club taking him past the great Kenny Dalglish on the club’s all-time list – turned things around.
But Liverpool’s defensive problems returned to haunt them as Hwang Hee-Chan equalised within four minutes of coming on as a second-half substitute and Wolves could easily have won the tie.
“I can understand (how) it looks open in moments but it is just open because we think we can win the challenge and then we don’t win it and that’s then really tricky to deal with in the end,” said Klopp.
“It’s not that they had now chance after chance; what it causes us is a lot of effort to put it right in the end and if you are already there, so you could win it where you are, then you don’t have to run back and try to solve the problems there.”
This season Liverpool have conceded the first goal in more than half of their matches and have only eight clean sheets in 27 matches.
Klopp was asked if this was a worry for him.
“Not in general, but in moments. It’s not concerning, you watch a game and then you see the things that happen.
“Whatever you play, high-line, deeper-line, ball-orientated, man-orientated – you have to win challenges. There is no alternative.
“I mentioned it already now in the dressing room and I will mention it again as the next team we face is Brighton, who are famous for playing proper football.
“If you don’t defend properly there, then why should we go there?”
Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui is under no illusion that cup competitions come second to securing their Premier League survival but he has thoroughly enjoyed his introduction to English football.
Since taking charge for his first match, a Carabao Cup tie at home to Gillingham following the resumption after the World Cup, the former Spain coach has lost just once – to Manchester United 1-0 – in his five games in charge.
A big week lies ahead with a Carabao Cup quarter-final against Nottingham Forest followed by a relegation six-pointer with West Ham and the deserved draw against Liverpool has boosted confidence ahead of that.
But it has not, however, deflected Lopetegui’s focus from the job he was brought into do do – namely saving the 19th-placed side from relegation.
“I’m enjoying it a lot. It’s impossible not to enjoy this environment and these kinds of matches,” he said after leaving Anfield with a draw.
“This is England. This is the cup. (But) the real situation is that we’re in a bad position in the league and this is the most important thing.
“We have to change it to achieve what we want. We have to be strong in our mind, believe in ourselves and work very hard for each match.”