Jurgen Klopp took aim at German referee Felix Brych for singling out Sadio Mane during Liverpool’s first-leg defeat at Real Madrid.
In a major talking point, Mane was barged over by Lucas Vázquez, who had his eyes on the opponent rather than the ball, just before the hosts took control of this Champions League quarter-final with their second goal in a 3-1 win at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.
“The situation with Sadio, what the ref did I have to say I don’t understand. For me that was something personal because he dealt with the situation with Sadio, which was a clear foul, like he was a diver or whatever,” said Klopp.
“From that moment on whenever Sadio went down he didn’t get anything. That is not right. That is what I told him after the game, that I thought he was unfair with Sadio. That doesn’t change anything at all. He didn’t lose the game. We were not good enough to get a better result, but in these moments you need just an ‘OK’ ref. That would have been enough.”
Klopp admitted Brych’s decision did not alter how poor his side were at Real’s training-ground stadium. Vinícius Júnior scored twice but Liverpool have been given a glimmer of hope with Mohamed Salah’s away goal.
“Most importantly, we didn’t deserve to win,” admitted Klopp. “We didn’t play good enough for that. That’s my first concern. Especially in the first half we didn’t play good enough football. A game is a summary of momentum if you want and when we had good momentum on the ball we changed that immediately by giving the ball away.
“We conceded the first goal and served the second on a plate but that was not the real problem of the game. Second half we played better football. We didn’t deserve a lot more but the second half was okay and it gives us a lifeline.”
Klopp’s big selections did not work out and he substituted Naby Keita in the first half after picking him ahead of Thiago Alcantara. Diogo Jota led the attack instead of Roberto Firmino but was taken off in the second half.
“There are the things I don’t like; one player is not responsible for the performance in the first half, Naby was not responsible,” said Klopp. “He didn’t play for a while, he was not good in the game but we all saw the game and I could have made a few more changes. I did it and I am now not happy because we talk about it. It was tactical, that was it.”
Klopp believes the task next week at Anfield is made harder behind closed doors, like the first leg.
“Of course, it is completely different. If you want to have some emotional memories you watch the Barcelona game back and 80 per cent of it is the atmosphere in the stadium,” he said.
“It’s not like I sit here and say, ‘comebacks are our thing’. We had supporters then and I don’t know if we can do it. It must be a really tricky task for Real Madrid at Anfield. This was strange because it was really difficult with the stadium but Anfield is at least a proper stadium and it will be good for us.”
Rio Ferdiand criticised the positioning of centre-backs Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak for not playing deep enough. And Klopp insisted Trent Alexander-Arnold’s mistake for the second goal was a result of the whole team playing poorly.
“It is the situation. These kind of mistakes don’t happen all of a sudden, there is bit of history before and after that. I didn’t like our game in the first half, we were just not really in the game and that is our mistake,” he said.
“We have to be really clear in our self-criticism and something like this can happen. In that moment it was Trent with the header but in other moments we just gave them the opportunity to use the speed they have by going in behind.”