Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side played out an exhilarating 3-3 draw with Sevilla in the Champions League this week. 90 minutes that felt more like two separate 45-minute contests. Both wide-open, end-to-end, frantically competitive and equally crammed with error and skill.
It was a performance that perfectly encapsulated the best and worst of Klopp’s Anfield tenure. Barnstorming, seemingly unstoppable, rabid attacking football in the opponent’s defensive third coupled with non-existent defensive organisation and individual errors from repeat offenders in their own.
The first half was the perfect Klopp performance. Liverpool’s front four of Philippe Coutinho behind Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah came out of the traps like a greyhound with its tail on fire. Their pace and inter-changing play had the Sevilla defence on the back foot from the first whistle. Visibly panicked, the Spanish side’s back four was dragged all over the place in an effort to deal with Liverpool’s incessant, incisive hard-running forwards.
Firmino ghosted in at the back post to open the scoring in the second minute to get Liverpool off to a flying start. Sevilla looked shell shocked. Liverpool continued to pile on the pressure without exerting any real control over the pattern of the game.
Then Mane exploited the same far post weakness to make it 2-0. Firmino got his second, and Liverpool’s third, on the half hour and Liverpool were in heaven, going in 3-0 up at the break.
It wasn’t all plain sailing though, Sevilla had their fair share of chances and really should have notched at least one goal for their efforts. It was seat of the pants stuff at times but that’s normal under Klopp. He pushes his side forward at pace and at all costs. It’s a gamble, but one he’s willing to take time and again. At 3-0 up at half-time away to Sevilla it seemed as though the German was going to beat the house.
The nature of Klopp’s smash and grab approach means that even with a three-goal lead his side haven’t actually established any consistent patterns of play. They had no control whatsoever. Like a boxer throwing flurry after flurry of punches in the hope of a knockout unable to take a backward step for fear of being KO’d himself, Klopp just keeps on pummelling.
At half-time both sides had a chance to regroup but it seemed only Sevilla could change things up. They took better care of the ball and exploited the weaknesses in a tiring Liverpool side. With the front four all looking heavy-legged almost immediately in the second half Sevilla had their chance to chip away at the scoreline.
Klopp was unable to arrest the home side’s progress from the touchline.
Then the individual errors come into play. Alberto Moreno – Klopp’s eternal blind spot – get’s a lot of flack from the Liverpool faithful. He consistently makes errors that lead to goals, primarily due to his lack of positional sense and goldfish-like concentration levels.
Klopp has persisted with the young Spaniard at left-back despite deeming him not good enough last season when James Milner took the number three position. Going forward Moreno can be useful. Trying to turn him into a defensively astute full-back is akin to trying to train a fox to live in your house like a dog.
At times he may look like he’s getting the hang of it but ultimately he’ll shit on the floor and make your wife cry.
In the depths of added time with excruciating inevitability Sevilla salvaged a point. Hesitant defending from a corner cost Liverpool dearly. A 3-3 draw before a ball was kicked is not a bad result but given Liverpool’s first half performance and the lead they enjoyed it was a disaster.
There were signs of weakness in the first half – particularly Moreno’s wild dashes out of position – but the scoreline seemed to blind Klopp to them. Ultimately, he paid the price.
The big German is becoming the neutral’s favourite manager but with such glaringly obvious mistakes being made with monotonous regularity how much longer will he remain in the good graces of the Liverpool supporters?