Jurgen Klopp called Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid “nearly perfect” citing an injury picked up by Roberto Firmino as the only negative.
Early goals from Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane were soon followed by a red card for Atleti defender Felipe which made it a comfortable evening for the Reds, who moved to 25 games unbeaten in all competitions.
However, Roberto Firmino lasted 33 minutes in the second half before departing with a hamstring problem as Klopp’s injury list continues to grow ahead of the weekend fixture with West Ham, live on Super Sunday.
“In the second half that’s how it was [controlled and calm],” he said.
“We have had an incredible schedule and even with controlling the game, we lost a player with injury, Bobby Firmino.
“I can imagine people wanted to see more goals but we created still many chances, we scored a goal that was disallowed, we had incredible chances in front of goal like, ‘wow, how could we miss them?’
“So I think the game was nearly perfect, like we want to have it. We scored the goals in the right moments.
“They were much more on the front foot than they were in the home game, how they started. But we defended that well and then two incredible balls from Trent. Fantastic finishes as well, especially Sadio’s one. I think Diogo will expect from himself that he’d finish that off. But Sadio keeps the ball, passes to the outside and is then greedy enough to get into the box and finish that situation off.
“Then with the red card, we don’t like that, we don’t want to play against 10 men. But then you have to be careful. They scored their goal and I don’t know exactly how it was offside, I didn’t understand it 100 per cent. But in the end it’s 2-0 and a great night.”
Klopp also admitted he hated having to substitute Mane at half-time as he feared the visitors’ gamesmanship would get the player sent off.
Mane had been targeted by the opposition from the off, much like in their last-16 meeting in Madrid in February 2020, and like on that occasion Klopp took the decision to minimise the risk by replacing the Senegal international at half-time.
“I think everyone in the stadium expected it. I thought it was the right thing to do and I hated it more than you can imagine,” said Klopp.
“I was not worried that Sadio cannot handle his emotions – he was calm but the thing is the ball comes in the air for a headed challenge and the [Atletico] player goes down.
“We all saw what the Madrid players did, rolling around to try to equal the number of players again. I didn’t like it but it was the right thing to do.”
Liverpool have qualified with two matches to spare as winners from the so-called ‘Group of Death’ which also includes AC Milan and Porto. This fourth win from four games now allows Klopp some much-needed breathing room in Europe as, with a seven-point cushion in Group B, he can now afford to rest key members of his squad in the final two games.
However, Klopp said his team “will show up” in both their remaining matches.
He said: “You earn a lot of money if you win Champions League games. Not me personally, it’s just for the club it’s important so that’s what we will do.
“Of course the first target is to get through the group and getting through the group with 12 points out of four matchdays is absolutely insane. But there are two more games to go and one is against Porto, a home game. We are Liverpool, what can we do? Let them play? Then going to Milan, I’ve never been there and we will show up there as well.
“When I saw the group I didn’t think we’d be through after four games but the boys did it and it’s well deserved.”