Mohamed Salah was in the middle of a diving controversy in Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on Monday night but Reds boss Jurgen Klopp refused to get drawn on whether his player had actually conned the referee or had genuinely stumbled.
Palace gave as good as they got for the opening 45 minutes but right at the end of the first-half, there came a pivotal moment in the tie.
Salah fell, under minimal contact, in the box and referee Michael Oliver didn’t hesitate before point ing to the spot. James Milner stepped up and cooly put the visitors ahead, before Sadio Mane would score a late strike to make sure of the three points for the Merseyside outfit.
“I didn’t ask Mo about it (the penalty). I have nothing to say about individual performances,” Klopp stated at his post-match presser.
The Egyptian winger was involved in two pivotal incidents in the second half as well.
The first being when he was through on goal, only for Aaron Wan-Bissaka to trip him on the edge of the box and Michael Oliver promptly gave the young defender his marching orders.
Mane’s injury-time strike was only possible due to Salah’s deft assist, capping off an eventful outing for the club’s talisman.
“Mo Salah can play much better, that’s 100 per cent, but he was really involved in both goals – decisively involved, so that’s two assists kind of, so I am completely fine with that and it’s all good. We have to play as a team. We can play as a team much better and that means immediately he is involved in that and that is all good. 2-0, all cool.”
“I thought we could have done better, but yes we expected Palace to be that strong and clear in their approach against us, playing a big number of long balls,” Klopp expressed on the match as a whole.
Liverpool’s second win in a row ensured they kept pace with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table and they next face Brighton & Hove Albion at home.
“In the game they were not that long, but they were long enough. I don’t know a lot of defenders in the world that can defend Christian Benteke in nearly 100 per cent of the situations, clear without a foul. It was very important that Virgil (van Dijk) was there and that kind of presence, but still the ball drops and then it’s a second ball. That was their plan as well, so it is difficult to be 100 per cent clear in these situations.”
“Defensively it was absolutely OK, (but) I was not too happy with our offensive play. The rhythm was not good, timing was not good, both full-backs need to be involved much more and open up their game a little bit so we really have different options. They shouldn’t be our No.10s but they are an option, so that was not too cool.”
Around the (opponent’s) goal, we had three or four situations, good passes in small spaces around the box and in the box. We were unlucky and then there was the penalty situation. I didn’t see it back; in the game it looked like (a penalty), but I cannot say more about it. We had the penalty, Millie scored in the best minute of the first half – and exactly the same in the second half.”
“It was really, really good. It’s obvious. Quality costs a specific price, it’s with cars like that, with a lot of things like that and with players as well, that’s why we paid it,” Klopp gushed on the topic of star defender Virgil van Dijk.
Palace have a reputation of being hard to beat under Roy Hodgson, yet managed to play a positive brand of football and Monday’s win at Selhurst Park was a valuable one indeed for the Merseysiders.
“Nobody thinks about it (transfer fee) anymore and that’s good because he’s a player in this market, in the moment, he’s at least worth it. We don’t know what will happen in the future (with transfer fees), but it’s not important to us. He loves playing with these boys and that’s the most important thing for me.”
Goalkeeper Alisson was another defensive player who shone in a tough away game for the title contenders and his manager was delighted with the Brazilian’s displays.
“The free-kick save was outstanding… it was quite impressive and I think the header from Benteke as well (was a good save). Apart from that, around each set-piece, Crystal Palace blocks the goalkeeper and Van Dijk and both were most decisive in these situations so both worked somehow through that forest of a lot of people and had then the ball, so that was all good.”
It’s been an impressive start to life at Liverpool for the £66 million signing as he’s kept two clean sheets in as many games so far.
“We won it because we scored in two very decisive moments. That’s good. It’s for us a big step because if you watch us a little bit more often you know that when we are not brilliant we usually lose! And today we were not brilliant but we still won. That is nice. Not completely new, but at least not often an experienced situation for me,” the Liverpool manager added.