Liverpool’s defeat at the hands of Real Madrid hurts, but Klopp’s work must be allowed to go on
The pain has slowly eased as the hours have passed since Karius’s eighty-third minute howler ensured the European Cup would be heading back to Madrid. It was a frustrating and hurtful night for Liverpool as Madrid were far from their dazzling best, but got the job done as they have done all season.
Liverpool fans should feel immense pride in their team as an eight European Cup Final was reached and some wonderful football played along the way. Real was always going to be a tough ask, but the players gave a reasonable account of themselves on the night. This was a stage none of us would have truly believed possible at the start of the season, and the fact that we made the knockout stages for the first time in a decade is testament in itself to how far we have come.
However there is also a rightful sense that Real’s use of the so-called dark arts went beyond what can be considered simple gamesmanship. On a night when the two goalkeeping errors are likely to dominate all headlines, it should not be forgotten that the momentum of this game switched after we lost our best player to a suspected dislocated shoulder.
Shouldering the blame
Every neutral will dismiss it as sour grapes, but Ramos was guilty of a blatantly assaulting and injuring Mohamed Salah on the twenty-fifth minute. The Spanish defender has always had a nasty streak and displayed it once again, after Liverpool had enjoyed a good opening twenty minute spell.
Real couldn’t build from the back as the high press was effective once more in hurrying their players into mistakes and poor passes. Their fans are none to be impatient and this must have been on the Real’s players minds as Liverpool looked to click into gear. Cue the Real Captain on twenty-five minutes, in what will go down in Liverpool history as one of the cruelest and most cynical fouls.
Ramos linked arms with Salah and physically wrench his arm, pulling the Egyptian with all of this strength, to the ground at an awkward angle, before rolling over him. The incident when watched in real time looks like a coming together, but it was a clear and targeted move against our best player, whose night ended in agony and tears. It is still unclear as to full damage done, but the mental impact on Liverpool was final.
The centre-half was also guilty of elbowing Loris Karius in the face in an incident prior to their first goal. The fact that both moments have barely been discussed in the mainstream is odd. Some journalists have even lavished praise on Ramos for his use of the dark arts making him a “great winner”. Surely though with the talent in their ranks, Zidane’s men should not have resort to cheating and assault to win a game of football. This was a horrible and sad detail of the match which really leaves a bitter taste; Ramos no doubt will continue to get away with his cynical and dangerous play as he has done throughout his career.
The whole incident rocked Liverpool’s momentum, and left them with few options to replace Salah. In hindsight, Lallana was an erroneous sub, and Solanke may have at least offered a more direct outlet, as well as a match fit pair of legs. Once Lallana came on, it was painfully clear he is still way off match fitness and we effectively played with ten men.
Real’s midfield gradually took control, with Isco, Modric and Kroos pulling the strings nicely. Liverpool were left to chase the game for large parts of the match and were grateful for the half time whistle.
Madrid were ultimately worthy winners on the night, their quality came through at the right time, as their midfield strangled the game. Gareth Bale’s overhead kick on sixty-four minutes must surely go down as one of the greatest goals in the Champions League’s history. Few players would have the poise and timing, not to mention the perfect technique, to execute such a beautiful overhead volley.
Zidane’s men may not go down as one of the greatest XI’s of all time, they have forged their names in to annals of history and deserve all the plaudits that head their way following this latest win Kiev.
In fairness to Klopp’s men, this was by no means a poor performance. The back four were stoic, with Lovren and Robertson putting in some brave tackles to deny marauding Madrid attacks. Mane led the line effectively, getting a well deserved equaliser and hitting the post from a ambitious pot shot. The fact that we were undone by two horrible errors will remain a hard one to take, in such a huge game with the eyes of the football world watching.
Elephant in the room
This site discussed the future of Liverpool’s goalkeeping situation a few weeks ago; it made the reluctant conclusion that an upgrade was needed. This couldn’t be more painfully obvious today as the dust settles on Loris Karius’s errors. It is nigh on impossible to see a way back for him after last night’s huge mistakes.
Both were bizarre and hideously misjudged. First, allowing Benzema to nick the ball from his toes from what seemed like a routine kick out, handing Real the lead on a plate. His second error was perhaps more glaring, as a straightforward shot from Bale was parried into the net, ending the game with ten minutes still to play.
For his concentration to slip at the biggest stage is proof that he doesn’t have the required personality or ability to make it at the top of the game. You have to feel some sympathy for him, and he was clearly in pieces after the match, but the club must be ruthless.
We have had two goalkeepers on the books for two season and neither are good enough. Both are error prone and capable only of a few months maximum of reasonable performances. It’s an issue which hasn’t been addressed sufficiently and that must change. Mingolet and Karius have to go and be replaced by match winning quality.
Perhaps it is finally time to look at the suitability of John Achterberg as our goalkeeper coach. He’s been training the first team keepers for seven years now and the situation has got progressively worse. Should he be sheltered from the spotlight? Former Red Pepe Riena is nearing the end of his career and could potentially be looked at as player/coach role. His experience at the highest levels of the game would be beneficial from the outset.
This defeat hurts and despite the fantastic achievements on the pitch to get us to Kiev, another final defeat is worrying. Liverpool have lost their last four now, as well as blowing the league in 2014. Jurgen Klopp is the best thing to happen to Liverpool for a long time and he can lead us to the trophies and success that we aspire to, if he is backed appropriately.
The money he’s spent so far has been good, with perhaps one of his few transfer errors was not signing a player to replace Coutinho in January. We would surely have benefited from another quality, fit player to chose in the midfield last night, as our legs tired and passes went astray.
The squad is currently threadbare and full of injury prone players. As previously discussed on this site, the club is not, as some pundits say, two players short, it is at least five players short of challenging for honours.
The bench Klopp could pick from for the Champions League Final contained three players who had missed significant chunks of the season, a young inexperienced striker, a third / fourth choice centre half and an inadequate goalkeeper. Real Madrid on the other hand, could bring on Gareth Bale.
Investments must be made this summer to address the lack of depth. We have the money, the manager and an exciting brand of football, all of which can attract players. FSG cannot allow another summer of missed transfer targets and half-baked recruitment. The money is there, it must be spent if this final is to be used as a brutal learning experience rather than the brick wall which killed Klopp’s juggernaut.