Jürgen Klopp on Kelleher, Minamino, Carabao Cup drama and more

Press conferenceJürgen Klopp on Kelleher, Minamino, Carabao Cup drama and more

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By James Carroll and Chris Shaw at Anfield

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Jürgen Klopp was delighted by the ‘outstanding’ efforts of his players as they dramatically defeated Leicester City to reach the Carabao Cup semi-finals.

Having trailed 2-0 and 3-1 in Wednesday night’s tie at Anfield, the Reds forced a penalty shootout through goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, substitute Diogo Jota and then Takumi Minamino in the 95th minute to make it 3-3.

Caoimhin Kelleher made two saves in the spot-kicks as the home side prevailed 5-4 and progressed to a last-four showdown with Arsenal in January.

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Read Klopp’s verdict on a thrilling match in his press conference below…

On his summary of the evening as a whole…

Oh, I am really, really happy. Really happy with the performance, with the spirit, with the mentality, in a lot of moments with the football. Of course it was difficult for us in the first half, we had to make a lot of changes and then in the end, Neco can play an offensive role definitely, but then together with Conor in that situation that didn’t work out that well. Even [though] Conor is an incredible talent, I love the boy to bits, he will be a Liverpool player in the future but today in the combination we had to make changes for the second half. Tyler because of the yellow card and Billy just because Ibou was there, it was clear he can play 45 minutes. We just had to make sure – and I actually wanted to make sure – he will not start because otherwise you let him play maybe a little bit longer, which was not right for today. So all the changes had reasons.

First half, always when we played football we were good. When we played the right football we were good. When we played exactly in their formation, then it was not that good and then they won their balls easily and then they had their counter-attacks and scored easy goals. OK, the first two; Maddison was obviously… we lost the ball before that as well in a not very comfortable moment and he could use his shooting skills.

But in half-time I told the boys actually I liked the game apart from the mistakes we made around the goals and we have to improve and do better in a few moments. We should not play in their formation, we have to use their formation to play around, to play next to the six, to switch more often to accelerate then, and to play in the half-spaces. The changes [for the second half] helped of course, when you can bring Diogo Jota in the shape he is, it is obviously very helpful. Millie on six, it was clear we will now not struggle with mentality anymore. We didn’t struggle, but we guaranteed it for the second half as well. And then Naby when he came on, ooh, what a game he played! The boys were just outstanding, I really liked it a lot. And in the end Caoimh, not only with the penalties but the save against Albrighton’s finish as well, he saved our life. So, we are in the semis, great.

On how big a moment it was for Kelleher…

Yeah, of course it’s important. But he is an outstanding goalkeeper, I don’t want to say anymore he’s a ‘talent’. For goalies maybe it’s possible because they are talents a bit longer because they can play longer. But he is an outstanding goalie; with his feet, game understanding, all the goalie skills. John [Achterberg] and Jack [Robinson] over the years did an incredible job with the boy, it’s really outstanding. Of course it’s nice. It’s not the first time he was part of these spectacular games, against Arsenal [in 2019] it was similar. But now he is even a step further. Like I said, he saved our life, was really helpful tonight.

On Minamino’s performance and equalising goal…

Top goal, top performance. When you change that much, that’s not 100 per cent fair when you then always expect that him and him and him have to play their absolute A game. But he played a really good game today. From a tactical point of view he is outstanding and it’s so cool for him that he could score that goal. It was a great goal, it was very important, it was in the best possible moment. And he deserved it, he deserved this goal for all the things he did tonight and for all the things he did in the last few months and years. So I’m really happy for him.

On Neco Williams’ performance…

Why should I make first and second half different? Yes, he played in a different position but Neco played a really good game. On that side, we are used to Mo Salah, so that’s how it is – it’s the way we play, how we can pass the ball, stuff like this. The passes we played in that area, when we were calm – when we were connected and played short passes – then it was all fine, but with these long balls or straight into his feet, it was too easy to defend for the left-back in that moment. He was very thankful for these balls, let me say it like this.

But I expected when you saw him warming up, when he cuts inside his left foot is incredible, he can really finish with it, so I was expecting one or two of these situations. There were good moments, but of course the second half was better. Wales play from time to time [with] wing-backs, he plays left side and all these kind of things – and he can play all these things, but tonight we had to make a few decisions and in this system the right wing is maybe not his top, top position, but he can play it. At full-back he played really well, he was involved in pretty much everything, he was much calmer in the right situations, involved in a lot of combinations and so I liked his game.

On whether the Carabao Cup semi-final should be a one-legged tie rather than two…

Yes, I think it would be better with one game, absolutely, but obviously what I say is not too important, so if there are two games then we play two games. It would be helpful if it’s only one, true.

On whether he has ‘a message’ about player welfare during the Christmas schedule and COVID-19 situation…

The only thing I do with my messages is I create headlines. They never arrived at the right places. We have tomorrow at four o’clock a meeting, but it’s with the Premier League – not with EFL, I am not sure if these people are involved or not. I don’t speak about player welfare since this year, I speak about it for six years – or maybe longer. It’s like it is. If the things I say would help more I would say them much more often, but it doesn’t help – it would just now create another headline. I said it, I would prefer only one semi-final [leg]. The draw is we play at Arsenal, I am fine with that, we play there, see who is better and go for it, but I can’t see any kind of changes actually.

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