Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp admits his side was second-best against Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
First-half goals from Vinícius Júnior and Marco Asensio put the home team 2-0 up at the break after a dreadful Liverpool performance in the first half. The Reds played better in the second half and pulled a goal back through Mohamed Salah after a good move involving Gini Wijnaldum and Diogo Jota. However, Júnior would restore Real Madrid’s two-goal lead in the 65th minute and that was how it finished.
The win puts Zinedine Zidane’s side firmly in the driving seat ahead of the second leg in Anfield next week. Normally, you would never write Liverpool off with the home fixture still to be played. But an empty Anfield is very, very different than a packed Anfield and Klopp’s men have lost their last six games at the famous ground.
Speaking at his post-match press conference, Klopp discussed his team’s poor showing in Madrid:
“First and foremost, and that’s most important, I think we didn’t deserve to win tonight. We didn’t play good enough for that and that’s maybe my first concern [and] what I think about. Especially in the first half, we didn’t play good enough football. We pressed them kind of OK, they were under pressure, they had to shoot a lot of long balls without a proper target, we won these balls but we gave these balls pretty much with the second pass away again. That didn’t help. A game is a summary of momentum if you want, and when we had this good momentum and we won the ball, we changed that immediately by giving the ball away. Football is a game where mistakes are completely normal, but you have to make the mistakes in the right spaces. If you do that, you can win the ball back by counter-pressing and stuff like this. But when you, in completely unexpected situations, pass the ball to the feet of the opponent, that’s then tricky.
“So, we conceded the first goal, obviously served the second on a plate, but that was not the real problem of the game… second half we did better, we played better football, we tried to create. It’s then obviously very difficult against a really passionate and deep-defending Real Madrid side with the counter-attacking threat they are. But we score our goal, which is obviously the positive – the positive – of the night and that’s how it is. Did we deserve more than the 3-1? I’m not sure, to be honest. The situation with Sadio, I have to say, what the ref did tonight I don’t understand. For me that was something personal because he did deal with the situation from Sadio, which is a clear foul, like it was a dive or whatever and from that moment on whenever Sadio went down he didn’t get anything anymore, and that’s just not right. That’s what I told him after the game, that I just thought he was unfair with Sadio and that’s how it is. But that doesn’t change anything at all. He didn’t lose the game, we were not good enough to get a better result.”
Klopp was asked about managing his squad’s focus now between a push for a Premier League top-four finish and the second leg of their Champions League tie with Real Madrid:
“We cannot be picky with that, we have to go for everything. It’s not like we can now make the decision after that game there is no chance for us in the Champions League anymore. In the Premier League, we cannot change it every week – we have to fight until the end and we will. Tonight, this is a really good result for Real Madrid and it’s not that we have any kind of advantage, but with each day and each minute that will go over until the next game the 3-1 will not be that good anymore for Real Madrid and not that bad anymore for us because there is, of course, a chance. But, we have to play much better football [and] we cannot get it like tonight. For example, a few years ago when we played against Barcelona and lost 3-0, we played a super game. That’s a massive difference and tonight we didn’t but we can play much better and we can be much more uncomfortable to play against than we were tonight and that’s what we have to make sure next week. Now we have to recover first and then concentrate on Aston Villa, which is for us a very important game, not only because of the results we had recently or in this season against them.”
Liverpool face Aston Villa at Anfield on Saturday in a 3pm kick-off. Then, it’s the second leg versus Real Madrid at 8pm on Wednesday, April 14th.
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