Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admitted his side got what they deserved in a 3-1 quarter-final first-leg defeat to Real Madrid, which leaves their Champions League hopes hanging by a thread.
However, he took a swipe at referee Felix Brych for having what he claimed was a personal issue with Sadio Mane after the German official ruled the Senegal international had not been fouled by Lucas Vazquez on the edge of the penalty area as he ran through on goal moments before Marco Asensio scored.
Mohamed Salah’s 26th goal in 44 Champions League matches had given the Reds a vital away goal and brought the score back to 2-1 early in the second half after a dreadful first 45 minutes saw them concede to Vinicius Junior and Asensio.
But they conceded another to Vinicius to leave them with a tough task at a fan-less Anfield next week.
“First and foremost I don’t think we deserved to win tonight, we didn’t play good enough and that is my first concern,” said Klopp.
“Especially in the first half we didn’t play good enough football. We conceded the first goal, served the second on a plate [after Trent Alexander-Arnold’smistake], but that was not the real problem of the game.
“Of course conceding goals is a problem but it is not the problem. The second half we did better, we scored our goal which is the positive of the night and that’s how it is.
“Did we deserve more than the 3-1? I’m not sure.”
Klopp left baffled by referee’s Mane treatment
Klopp was baffled as to why Mane did not receive a free-kick and Vazquez a red card for the challenge late in the first half.
“The situation with Sadio, what the ref did tonight I have to say I don’t understand,” he added.
“For me that was something personal because he dealt with the situation with Sadio, which was a clear foul, like he was a diver or whatever.
“From that moment on whenever Sadio went down he didn’t get anything. That is not right. That is what I told him after the game, that I thought he was unfair with Sadio.
“That doesn’t change anything at all. He [Brych] didn’t lose the game. We were not good enough to get a better result, but in these moments you need just an ‘OK’ ref. That would have been enough.”
Klopp on substituting Naby Keita…
With his side 2-0 down, Klopp substituted Naby Keita, bringing on Thiago Alcantara just before half-time, and the German boss revealed it was a tactical decision.
“It was tactical,” he said. “It’s one of the things I don’t like in the job because when you do that it’s like the one player is responsible for the performance in the first half.
“Naby wasn’t responsible for that. He hadn’t played for a while, especially not from the start. He was not good in the game, but we all saw it and to be honest I could have made more. It was not about Naby but I did it and now I am not happy about it because now we talk about it like it is Naby’s responsibility. It was not, but it was tactical.”
‘Real had too much for Liverpool’
Analysis from Sky Sports’ Adam Bate:
“It was a thrilling game but Liverpool have come out on the wrong end of it.
“The makeshift defence had been a little more sure of itself in recent weeks but this examination was rather more tough and Real Madrid had too much on the night.
“Vinicius Junior was superb but the frustration is that individual errors also played their part – most notably Trent Alexander-Arnold’s misdirected header for the second goal.
“Mohamed Salah’s away goal means that the tie is far from dead and the opportunity is still there for Liverpool to progress at Anfield but they are up against it now.”
‘Away goal could be crucial’
Lianne Sanderson on Sky Sports News:
“You cannot start a game in the Champions league like that, especially against Real Madrid, and expect to win the game.
“But the positive they can take is that they did turn the game around at half-time. Yes, the game ended 3-1 but Liverpool were definitely better in the second half.
“Some might say they couldn’t have done any worse. The amount of unforced errors there were, people will highlight Trent Alexander-Arnold, but Ozan Kabak was making mistakes, Fabinho was making errors, they all were.
“The fact they reacted to whatever Jurgen Klopp said at half-time and got the away goal was a positive.
“Of course Liverpool fans will not be happy with losing, but having played the way they did in the first half, to come away with only a 3-1 defeat is a positive result, and the away goal in the Champions League is so vital.”
Zidane: Goals important for Vinicius
The pace of Vinicius was a problem for Liverpool all night and the Brazilian’s first double in a game was well deserved, according to coach Zinedine Zidane.
“I am happy for him because what he is doing and what all the guys are doing is a great job, especially from a defensive point of view,” said the Real boss.
“Maybe he was missing some goalscoring with the work he is contributing to the team so to score two goals is big to provide a lot of confidence and he deserves that.
“I don’t know if that was his best match but two goals in the quarter-finals is important for him and the team.
“I am happy because of the football. At the beginning of the second half we had a bit of difficulty but at the end of the day we are happy with 3-1 as it was a huge effort.
“We have to enjoy what we did today.”
Klopp’s side are back in action on Saturday when they host Aston Villa at Anfield, live on Sky Sports Premier League (kick-off 3pm) before the second leg next Wednesday against Real Madrid.
The Spanish side face a big La Liga clash before the second leg when they host Barcelona in El Clasico on Saturday; kick-off 8pm.