Jürgen Klopp credited his players' character, rather than his own tactics, for helping 10-man Liverpool defeat Crystal Palace 2-1 on Sunday, insisting: 'It's more about passion than formation'.
The Reds looked to be up against it when James Milner received a second yellow card just past the hour mark at Selhurst Park with Alan Pardew’s side already a goal ahead.
But the visitors turned the game on its head as Roberto Firmino capitalised on a mistake from goalkeeper Alex McCarthy to equalise before substitute Christian Benteke won and converted a penalty with almost the final kick of the game.
Klopp had looked to change things moments prior to Milner’s sending-off, moving the No.7 to right-back and bringing in Philippe Coutinho, but the German says he was left indebted to his squad’s never-say-die attitude in the end.
“We knew about this yellow card, of course, and we had to make a decision,” he told reporters at his post-match press conference.
“We wanted to bring Phil Coutinho onto the pitch [and thought about] how we could do this. On the right wing we thought we could be a little bit more offensive with Milner instead of Flanno.
“I think it was the first moment after they had a short corner, lost the ball, bam, second yellow. Things like this happen. It’s not the first time in my life, maybe it’s the first time in Milly’s life, I’m not sure.
“It’s not the biggest problem, we were one man down and 1-0 behind but it’s not a problem for the offensive things because you don’t need 11 players for offensive play.
“But it makes sense to have 11 for defending, so we had to find a solution for this and we tried to do it with 3-4-2. It’s more about passion than about formation in this moment. We did well, we needed a little bit of luck of course.
“I think [across] the whole 90 minutes we deserved the luck but in the situation around [the equaliser], we needed a bit of luck to force this mistake and could use it to score a goal.
“To be honest, I think nobody really thought that we would try to make another goal, but Christian had another idea. He took the ball, went into the box, and it was a challenge, it was a foul, it was a penalty and he took the chance for us. It was really good.”
Klopp named Benteke, Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge as part of a strong bench for the clash in the capital, with the former pair coming on to good effect.
But the boss denied that he had done so with Thursday’s mouthwatering Europa League tie against Manchester United at Anfield in mind.
“No. Today, I did not have Thursday in mind. We tried to prepare ourselves for a real physical fight today against Crystal Palace,” he added.
“We had to fight for second balls. Under pressure, you need direction in a game, you have to go behind the last lines, you need speed and you need tactical movements together so you can close the gap and protect ourselves.
“That’s what we thought today, we thought it made sense to play with a similar formation to the one we did last Wednesday [against Manchester City].
“To be honest, I have never had a bench with this quality in 15 years as a manager – this bench was important.
“If you have a bench like this, you know that on the pitch you have a good team, but we needed a good team because Crystal Palace are really difficult to play. We knew it from the first game and now we’ve taken the points back, I think everything is OK.”
The strength of the bench is something the manager believes bodes well for the future, with the Reds’ options having been significantly boosted of late by the return to fitness of a number of players.
When asked how he might use his fit-again attackers, Klopp joked: “All together? We’ll play 4-1-5! That’s the situation, that’s football.
“A team with aims and big ambitions, you need a strong bench. A strong bench is 100 per cent fit players on the bench in 100 per cent form and shape.
“That was a strong bench – the first time we’ve had this. We’ve had a lot of form and shape on the bench, but never fitness because they’ve come back after four and five weeks [after injury]. It’s a good moment and hopefully it stays like this.
“If somebody is angry because he doesn’t start, no problem – show it on the pitch. It’s not possible to come to me and say you haven’t played and I say, ‘Oh, right, it’s my fault – I forgot you’. I never forget a player. I don’t make a problem of it – it’s perfect.
“We need all of these guys – everybody is asking for Christian Benteke when he doesn’t play. If we have another question, somebody will ask about Daniel Sturridge. Always who doesn’t play.
“We have a long run, we have very important games to go and this is the first time we’ve had more players than matches! Usually we have less players than matches in a week, so we should use this situation.
“The boys did well. Phil came on and did great. Christian came on and did great. Kolo in the last few minutes, saved the world for us. That’s cool.
“Hopefully Christian can take this, it was a great moment. It was a penalty, in my opinion, it was enough of a touch – more than enough – and he shot great. Absolutely deserved.”