Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has hit out at what he calls the “strange” decisions made by referee Kevin Friend during his side’s 1–1 draw with West Ham United on Monday night.
It was an enormous match for Liverpool as the Reds travelled to the London Stadium to take on West Ham. It was less than a week since Jurgen Klopp’s side had dropped points in a 1–1 draw with Leicester City in the Premier League and needed to get back to winning ways. Rivals Manchester City beat Arsenal at the weekend to close the gap between them and the Reds to just two points.
Things started well for Liverpool when they took a first-half lead. After a good piece of play from Adam Lallana down the right, James Milner was given time and space to pick out a cross. He found Sadio Mane who controlled the ball, swivelled, and opened the scoring for the Reds inside 22 minutes.
It seemed like business as usual for Jurgen Klopp’s side but their lead lasted just five minutes. A well-worked free kick routine gave West Ham’s Michail Antonio a free route into the box and he levelled the scoreline. Liverpool continued to press forward throughout the match but struggled to break down a determined West Ham defence. Time ticked away and the score finished at 1–1, leaving Liverpool and Klopp frustrated.
“It was not our best performance of course because we came up against difficult opponents,” Klopp said after the match.
“It’s a deserved draw which we’ll take now. We’ll see who’s available for the weekend and we’ll move on.
“We have to perform better. That’s all I’m interested in and concerned about.
“A couple of players didn’t play at the highest level tonight, but it’s happened before and it’ll happen again. We will deal with that.”
It certainly was an off night for Liverpool. Many of their best players put in sub-par performances and they were somewhat fortunate to escape with the draw. Replays showed that James Milner was, in fact, offside during the run-up to Liverpool’s goal, something which Jurgen Klopp alluded to. However, the German boss insisted that this had a negative impact on his side in the second half.
“We had good moments, coming through the channels and scored the goal, which I’ve now been told is offside. This explains a little bit the second half because I think the referee knew at half-time.
“He knew it for sure at half-time, and then you saw a lot of strange situations. They were not decisive but just rhythm breakers. That obviously didn’t help us.
“If I’ve made a mistake in the first half, I don’t want to open the gap even more as a human being.”
It’s an interesting series of quotes from Jurgen Klopp. It wouldn’t be the first time a referee has attempted to make up for a previous incorrect decision with an increased level of leniency. However, that feels like an unfair conclusion to draw from this match. The Reds benefitted immensely from the opening goal and almost grabbed a winner in stoppage time when Divock Origi was flagged onside when replays showed otherwise.
Regardless of whether referee Kevin Friend was correct or not, the situation remains the same. Liverpool are now just three points ahead of Manchester City who will go top of the Premier League with a win on Wednesday night when Pep Guardiola’s men take on Everton in a rescheduled match. Victory will see them join Liverpool on 62 points but they’ll actually leapfrog the Reds due to their superior goal difference.
Liverpool’s draw with West Ham has certainly reignited the title race. Manchester City are now the favourites to lift the title this season at 10/11 on Betway as of 5 February. The Reds aren’t far behind at 23/20 and this slip at the London Stadium is surely a contributing factor to that.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. Pep Guardiola’s City are the current champions and if they can lift the crown again they will become the first club to retain the Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United won three consecutive titles between 2006 and 2009. Liverpool will need to improve if they are to stop their rivals from matching that feat. It’s going to be a fascinating couple of months.