Football

I’d make the same changes again: Klopp on tweaking line-up in 2-0 loss

Reds boss defiant in defeat after making 5 changes due to hectic schedule

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp has defended making wholesale changes to the team who lost 2-0 to Atalanta in their Champions League Group D tie yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The German made five changes to his starting XI with one eye on their busy schedule until the end of the year and Liverpool failed to muster a shot on target.

Two quickfire second-half goals from Josip Ilicic and Robin Gosens meant that Atalanta became the first Italian side to win at Anfield since Udinese in the Europa League in October 2012.

"It was very important we did that (the changes) and, in the end, it didn't work out and that is part of the deal. I'd do it again," said Klopp, who admitted that it was a deserved defeat.

Liverpool had thrashed Atalanta 5-0 in Italy at the start of the month to make it three wins from their first three group games.

But, for the first time since Virgil van Dijk was lost to an anterior cruciate ligament injury at Everton last month, the Reds looked vulnerable at the back in a rare Anfield defeat.

Klopp named a makeshift defence featuring only Joel Matip from last Sunday's 3-0 win over Leicester City, as Neco Williams, Rhys Williams and Kostas Tsimikas started.

Atalanta took advantage of the hosts' lack of cohesion at the back when Gosens got in behind Matip and smashed a powerful strike that Alisson pushed away.

Papu Gomez was next to exploit Matip's creaky start when he eluded the centre-back and fired just wide from the edge of the area.

Liverpool were no more convincing in attack, despite the presence of Mohamed Salah - back after missing one match due to his positive Covid-19 test.

The Egyptian finally had a sight of goal just before half-time, but he couldn't keep his effort on target.

Liverpool were no better after the interval and they fell behind in the 60th minute.

Gomez whipped over a teasing cross that Liverpool failed to deal with and the unmarked Ilicic stole in to slot past Alisson from close range.

Klopp had seen enough and made four changes immediately after the goal, hauling off Salah among others and sent on Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino, Fabinho and Andy Robertson.

The switches weren't enough to spark the lethargic Liverpool into life and Atalanta struck again in the 64th minute.

Liverpool were dreadfully slow to react as Gosens produced a clinical finish from 10 metres, after Gomez's precise delivery was nodded across goal by Hans Hateboer.

"We had a great game tonight, we managed to play our football," Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini told Italian TV.

"We played better this time and we played quality football as well as being solid throughout."

Liverpool could still seal qualification against Ajax Amsterdam next week, but Klopp's attention is on tomorrow's trip to Brighton & Hove Albion in an early English Premier League game.

"You ask us to go Saturday at 12.30, which is nearly a crime," he said.

"That is nothing to do with the result. Thumbs up, no injuries and we go again."

Like many others in the game, Klopp also paid tribute to Argentinian legend Diego Maradona, who died on Wednesday after a heart attack.

"I'm 53 years old, my entire life, he was a part of it," he said.

"There's Diego who was an unbelievable footballer, then Maradona who struggled slightly with all the things around... I will miss both." - AFP, REUTERS

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