Jurgen Klopp singles out three Liverpool stars key to RB Leipzig win including Ozan Kabak
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Jurgen Klopp picked out Alisson, Jordan Henderson and Ozan Kabak for praise after Liverpool beat RB Leipzig in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie at the Puskas Arena in Hungary on Tuesday night.
The Reds won 2-0 thanks to second-half strikes from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to put one foot into the next round ahead of the return leg at Anfield on March 10.
The six-time European champions are looking to make the quarter-finals after being halted at the round of 16 stage by Atletico Madrid last season.
And Liverpool’s win against Leipzig was a timely one ahead of Saturday evening’s Merseyside derby against Everton, with Klopp’s side having lost all of their previous three matches before they resumed their European campaign.
Liverpool’s three-game losing streak in the Premier League has seen them slide to sixth and fall six points behind third-placed Leicester, who beat Klopp and co 3-1 at the King Power Stadium at the weekend.
But the Merseyside outfit were much improved against their Bundesliga opponents in midweek and Klopp was particularly pleased with his centre-back partnership and his goalkeeper.
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Alisson made two critical errors in the 4-1 defeat to Manchester City earlier this month and was involved in a costly mix-up with Kabak on the defender’s debut at Leicester which saw the Foxes go 2-1 up.
Klopp said after his team’s first-leg triumph: “Definitely [Alisson’s save from Christopher Nkunku was a big moment].
“But he had big moments in the Leicester game. Of course a clean sheet helps, as you can imagine. Ali will sleep really well in the plane on the way home! As always, he helped us a lot.”
The German continued: “I think that his [Kabak’s] attitude was good. I’m very happy with his performance. And Hendo, he can play this position perfectly.
“It’s not that Leipzig didn’t have a chance, Ali had to intervene also, but that’s normal. Overall I can say that, the whole package, I’m very pleased with the performance.”
Klopp declared himself “really happy” after Liverpool got back to winning ways after defeats to Brighton, Man City and RB Leipzig.
He added: “I think people expected us to slip tonight. I’m pretty sure a lot of people thought that it would be really tricky for Liverpool. And it was difficult, but we did it.
“I don’t believe too much in motivation in that manner, where people want us to do badly and that makes us want to show them.
“Yes, we can use things like this from time to time, but we don’t have enough contact with the outside world to really know how much people wish us to fail.
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“But it’s clear. Liverpool, in the situation we are, we play against Leipzig, the chances of us winning the game dropped pretty much minute by minute [recently] in the perception of people.
“That’s completely fine and I would probably have said the same if I wasn’t that close to the team. But the boys reacted in a really good way and I’m really happy.”
The Liverpool manager also however accepts that one good performance and result does not instantly fix all of the problems that have dogged the team in recent weeks.
Klopp’s side managed back-to-back away wins over Tottenham and West Ham and looked to have turned a corner after a poor end to 2020 and start to 2021 before their run of three successive defeats.
“We are not children anymore and it is not that we think we have won that game and everything is fine again,” he said.
“It’s much more important that we play good football again and it is not the first time in the last few weeks.
“I understand and respect that no-one is really happy with the results and that is clear, but the football we played, dominating City in a way that happened not often, the same against Leicester, we should not forget that but tonight, the result was with us.
“We scored two goals, forced the opponents to make the mistakes that we made in the last few weeks, the boys worked really hard, top individual performances but especially how we worked together and really put it all together.
“Because if you watch Leipzig more often you would know their game can look completely different to tonight. They can cause you problems.
“We saw the line-up and we have no idea what positions they play. With these players on the pitch they could have had six or seven different systems and played them but whatever they tried tonight, we had an answer.
“They had chances, of course, and that is normal but for the majority of the game we had control of it. That is very important because it doesn’t happen a lot against Leipzig.
“We played well and deserved the win. We forced their mistakes with a good formation, good attitude and in places we played some good football, so I am happy with the performance.”
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