Klopp’s Contrived Drop



Some things just don’t stick! Some decisions are better off vanishing at the level of conception. Jurgen Klopp may not be English, but the maxim, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” must be too popular not to have a German translation. Why the Liverpool manager dropped two of his strongest sharp-shooters in a gunfire duel against one of his most virulent opponents would never make sense to me in a 100 years. Not even an armchair quarterback would have received a medal for fielding Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino in this crucial match. But the duo were dropped by Klopp.

The game kicked off with both teams settling in quite early; tried to break each other down in the first 10 minutes. The home team (as expected) knocking more at the door; and perhaps, peeping through the window for the desired opening. Although, Mohamed Salah was hovering around the Chelsea vital area — and was a source of irritation — there was still no major efforts at goal with a quarter of an hour gone.

On the other hand, Chelsea were playing the Leicester City card. The Blues could have been mistaken for the King Power landlords in their all-blue outfit and playing style. Antonio Conte’s men were content just sitting back. Chelsea’s first effort at goal came from Eden Hazard in the 20th minute, but was easily despatched by Simon Mignolet. The Belgian released Danny Drinkwater 2 minutes later, but the Englishman couldn’t cut the mustard. Chelsea were beginning to get their mojo on, as Davide Zappacosta made Mignolet earn his pay shortly after.

For all of Liverpool’s dexterity with passes, the front three never really posed any problem to Chelsea. The usual threats the Reds have exhibited this campaign were conspicuously missing. Hazard was at the heart of Chelsea’s haphazard invasion of Liverpool’s defense mechanism. But on the flipside, Philippe Coutinho had been largely anonymous all day.

Salah almost punished his former employers in the 40th minute when he stylishly went past N’Golo Kante and Gary Cahill to curl his shot just outside Thibaut Courtois’ right post. Pity for the diminutive Egyptian — his attacking comrades nowhere near his wavelength.

Goalless at the end of the first 45 minutes.

Second half kicked off with Chelsea showing more intent. But Liverpool were still making their occasional inroads in Chelsea’s vital area, and Daniel Sturridge’s wishy-washy effort in the 49th minute got Courtois doing a Disney show as the Belgian fumbled an otherwise harmless effort to safety.

As Liverpool continued to knock the ball around freely with less penetration, it was apparent that the Reds needed some form of catalyst to spark off their day. And the moment finally came in the 64th minute. The irrepressible Salah again on the scoresheet, off a Coutinho assist. The Egyptian left the Chelsea defense bemused to give the Anfield faithfuls something to cheer about. Sturridge was replaced in the 65th minute by Georginio Wijnaldum in an apparent move by Klopp to further choke the midfield. Conte responded with the introduction of Cesc Fabregas for Drinkwater in the 73rd minute. Tiemoue Bakayoko also left the battleground for Pedro in the 76th minute. The Blues in desperate need of something from a game slipping away, threw in Willian in the 82nd minute for Zappacosta. And the Brazilian had an instant impact when his neither-a-short-nor-a-pass touch sailed into Liverpool’s net in the 85th minute. Parity restored!

Liverpool invited the evil that befell them. Why Klopp recoiled into his shell, at home, I would never know. Methinks the Anfield giants lost this crucial tie to the gaffer’s error of judegment. Always deploy your strongest arsenal, no matter the foe!

The blue half of Manchester should be the happier for this.



Liverpool Vs Chelsea (18:30pm) : Saturday, November 25, 2017


By Uche Atuma

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