Jurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool aren’t playing like a side who “deserve” Champions League football next season after blowing the chance to move into the Premier League’s top four with a 1-1 draw against Newcastle on Saturday. Mohamed Salah had opened the scoring after just three minutes, but Liverpool wasted a host of chances to extend their lead and paid in stoppage time.
The Reds even had a reprieve when Callum Wilson’s equaliser used to be ruled out after a VAR review for handball, but still could not hold on as Willock’s deflected strike secured a imperative point in the Magpies’ tender for top flight survival.
Liverpool move up to sixth but are a point in the back of fourth-placed Chelsea and West Ham, who face off later on Saturday at the London Stadium.
Two more dropped points is a blow to Liverpool’s chances of a place in next season’s Champions League after their owners’ plans for ensuring they’ve top level European football each and every season with no need to earn it on the field collapsed this week.
Liverpool were one of 12 clubs to to begin with signal up to proposals for a European Super League (ESL) final weekend, only to withdraw inside 48 hours after a backlash from their own players and fans.
“Whether you deserve it, you deserve it,” said Klopp, echoing the critics of the ESL as a closed shop for Europe’s big clubs.
“I did not see us today playing like we deserve Champions League next year. We have another five games and we can see. We memorize or we do not play Champions League, that’s it.”
A protest outdoor Anfield on Saturday used to be more muted than the ones seen ahead of Chelsea and Arsenal’s home matches in recent days, but quite a lot of flags and banners were attached to the gates around the ground calling out the “greed” of the club’s American owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG).
John Henry’s FSG helped deliver Liverpool’s first Premier League title for 30 years final season.
But most of the problems Klopp’s men have encountered in defending their title were in evidence again as they failed to see off Newcastle long before a nervy finale.
“I don’t believe you’ll be able to create a lot more chances, better chances than we did today and we do not finish the game off,” added Klopp.
The hosts could not have made a better start as a brilliant touch and finish from Salah opened the scoring after just three minutes.
Salah must have had a second but fired too near to Martin Dubravka when clean through on goal, while Sadio Mane also failed to round the Slovakian goalkeeper with a glorious chance.
Dubravka then made a string of fine saves after the break to disclaim Roberto Firmino, Mane and James Milner.
The tension in the Liverpool players used to be lucid late in the game and Newcastle capitalised after manager Steve Bruce sent on Wilson and Willock.
Wilson bundled home after Alisson had saved his initial effort, but the ball had rebounded off the Brazilian goalkeeper onto the former Bournemouth striker’s hand before he stabbed it into an unguarded net.
Seconds later, Liverpool failed to care for another long ball into their box and it fell for on-loan Arsenal midfielder Willock, whose strike deflected in off Fabinho to leave Alisson helpless.
A third late goal in recent weeks from Willock edges Newcastle ever closer to survival. Bruce’s men are now nine points lucid of the backside three in 15th.
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