Jurgen Klopp suggested he had found a way to win “average matches” for the first time in his managerial career after Liverpool eked out an unconvincing 1-0 Premier League victory at Huddersfield.
This result ensured Liverpool finished Saturday level on points with leaders Manchester City after Mohamed Salah’s first-half goal, his 50th in English club football, proved enough to defeat their struggling opponents.
Liverpool laboured through the match, while Huddersfield, without a goal in five home league matches this season, were unlucky not to gain a point.
Jonathan Hogg hit the post with a 25-yard shot just after the half-hour mark for David Wagner’s side, while James Milner escaped a penalty appeal when he handled the ball shortly before half-time.
Klopp has developed a reputation for building spectacular attacking teams, with Liverpool the second-highest scorers in last season’s Premier League, behind only champions Manchester City.
This season, however, they are only the joint-fourth highest scorers after nine matches, behind City, Chelsea and Arsenal, and level with Tottenham and Bournemouth.
Where Liverpool have improved significantly is at the back, having conceded only three goals — their best defensive record after nine games of a league season.
“It’s the first period in my life that we win kind of average matches,” said Klopp. “That’s true.
“We cannot write a book tonight about to win trophies. But there is not one way to win football games. There are different ways.
“There’s only one way to win a title, and that’s to win football games. But sometimes I prefer the spectacular way.”
– ‘Brilliant basis’ –
He added: “The basis we’ve created so far is brilliant – 23 points. I don’t think I’ve ever had that after nine games.” Klopp acknowledged Liverpool were fortunate to win against a Huddersfield side managed by his fellow German and longstanding friend Wagner, and that they may also have got a break in not conceding a penalty for Milner’s handball.
However, his side’s ability to earn victories when not at their best is an encouraging sign for Klopp as Liverpool attempt to keep pace with City and fellow title contenders Chelsea, and win the English title for the first time since 1990.
“We were lucky with the handball maybe,” said Klopp. “You need luck to have only conceded three goals at this point of a season.
“It was a good game from Huddersfield and not so good game from us. So we’ll take it (the win).
“The performance wasn’t 100 percent. I sometimes look frustrated on the touchline even if we are winning. It looked as if we could have scored in six or seven situations but we needed one better pass “We did lots of good things and then the last pass wasn’t good. How can I explain that? I need to look back at the game. The players weren’t great with their last pass.”
Huddersfield remain without a victory after nine league matches, and have scored only once at home in the top division since February 11.
They enjoyed plenty of pressure, but their impressive build-up play was let down by a lack of finishing power, with substitute Steve Mounie missing a chance late on after both Virgil van Dijk and Dejan Lovren failed to cut out Isaac Mbenza’s cross.
“If it is the case that luck always evens out, then we will have a lot of luck over the next 29 games,” said Wagner, whose side are second-bottom in the table, with only Newcastle beneath them.
“We have had problems scoring goals and we are focused on it, but it is also the truth that we have performed at a high level. I would be concerned if we didn’t have the opportunities. As long as we create the opportunities, I have no concerns. The goals will come,” he added.