Jürgen Klopp on Villarreal comeback, half-time message, reaching UCL final and more

Press conferenceJürgen Klopp on Villarreal comeback, half-time message, reaching UCL final and more

Published 3rd May 2022
By James Carroll and Sam Williams at Estadio de la Ceramica

Jürgen Klopp detailed the changes made at half-time that enabled Liverpool to beat Villarreal and reach the Champions League final.

Villarreal 2-3 Liverpool: Highlights

The Reds recovered from 2-0 down at the break to win the second leg 3-2 at Estadio de la Ceramica thanks to goals from Fabinho, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane, and therefore advance 5-2 on aggregate.

Klopp has now led the club to three Champions League finals in five seasons and his team are the first side in history to reach the final of that competition, the Emirates FA Cup and Carabao Cup in the same campaign.

Read on for a transcript of the manager’s post-match press conference…

On what he said to the players at half-time…

Play better than the first [half]! No, it’s actually… usually in a situation like this when we don’t find a way into the game we try to find a situation which we can show the boys at half-time that explains it a little bit, what we have to do. So, when Pete [Krawietz] went in I told him, ‘Find just one situation where we did it how we wanted to do it in the first place.’ And when I came in, Pete just said, ‘Nah, didn’t find any.’ But it was clear.

The start was obviously really difficult for us to take, we were obviously impressed by that. We had no real build-up, we didn’t play in the right spaces, all of a sudden we just kicked long balls and tried to force it. We had, kind of, dangers, but never enough to get a little bit of momentum. So we just explained to the boys where we have to play, what we have to do, where we have to be stronger and where we have to move smarter because obviously in the first half we didn’t move enough. We couldn’t find the midfielders in the half-space because they were not there, the front three were too fixed: Sadio left, Mo right and Diogo in the centre. There was no flexibility so we had to mix that up definitely, to cause them more problems. Because of their very man-orientated defending we played in their hands and that’s what we had to change.

On how it feels to have reached a third Champions League final with Liverpool…

Outstanding, massive, it feels like it’s the first, to be honest, because it is always so special. It is, for me, the best club competition in the world. I love it, love the sound, everything, love the nights. Respect to Villarreal, this really wonderful stadium, what the people are doing here is incredible, what Unai [Emery] is doing is incredible, how the players put us under pressure, everything is great. So it feels so special because it was so difficult for us, but in the end we deserved it as well and that’s really cool.

It was massive, massive from the boys. Before the game I told the boys that I would like to read the headlines that ‘The mentality monsters were in town’ just because I wanted us from the first moment not like somebody that defends the result but goes for the three points or for the win. I couldn’t see that but the second half was like this… for me it was like this because you could see how impressed we were in the first half and then coming back like we came back in the second half was really special. With the 500 games, like it feels, that the boys played it is completely normal that the first half can happen but reacting like we reacted made it really special again and it is that that we are really happy about.

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On Diaz’s impact on the game…

He had a massive impact. But what I don’t like about this is the next story is around that Diogo Jota was our problem: he was not at all our problem, we just had to mix it up. We had 11 problems, if you want, in the first half. We just had to mix it up, you can do that with explaining, what I did obviously, but you need then fresh input as well. Sadio all of a sudden was involved in the game, that was nothing to do with the position, it must have been a misunderstanding. For specific situations I wanted Mo and Sadio high and wide, but not in open play situations. So even after working for so long together… it’s just because it means so much, that’s how it is, it means so much. First half all of a sudden we were not ourselves but second half we were ourselves and that’s why we won the game. Yes of course, Luis, what a goal and he had a few more situations. I think the first one he takes with a bicycle kick, if he takes that on the chest he can score already. So yeah, top performance. 

On becoming the first team to reach the finals of the Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup in the same season and wanting to create more history with more trophies…

What can I say now? There’s only one chance to win a final and that is to qualify for a final. That’s what we did so far, we played each game available. We went through all competitions until the last game, three of these competitions are not finished yet. I know all the stories around and stuff like this and supporters from other clubs, first half today a lot of people might have been happy that we got a knock, but it’s really difficult to reach three finals – that’s probably the reason why nobody did it so far. But we made that happen and when the specific finals show up in our schedule we will make sure that we are ready for it. But we play incredibly strong teams in these finals so we will see. We will give it a go, definitely, but that it’s difficult I could have told you without knowing that nobody did it so far because it is really tough.

On the tweaks made during half-time...

Yes, I know it was tough for Villarreal in the first half. They played pretty much very man-orientated, if not man-marking. In a lot of moments they took all the risk; I couldn’t respect it more what they did. The physical aspect at least, we didn’t mention at half-time. No, I cannot tell you what I said at half-time [because], first and foremost, I don’t know it exactly anymore, but I know what I was talking about. About playing football and where we have to play, where we have to move, where we have to show up, where we have to be brave, where we have to change the momentum, where we have to go in behind and where we have to go in between. It was a football problem and understanding football problems you sort with football, if you can get your mind right. After three minutes, our mind was not right anymore - we were in a rush, we felt the pressure and that doesn’t make sense. You have to force your own football through and in the second half we did that.

On whether Diaz was the solution to Liverpool’s first-half issues...

The thing is, it’s not that Luis was the solution: the solution was that we move more. We were really fixed in the front line. As I said, we had Sadio left, Mo right and Diogo in the centre and if you play against a man-orientated or a man-marking system, you play into their hands because now you give the ball there and they win the challenge. I think we couldn’t keep one ball in the front line in the first half because of the wrong movements, but if you cannot only play the balls in the front line you need the options in midfield as well. Obviously Thiago got massive pressure when he dropped, our full-backs - especially Robbo - were too early, too high in moments and we had five players in one line and nobody for the decisive pass.

So there were so many problems, it’s not that I can explain it now, but you saw them as well - and you saw the second half. The difference was talking about it at half-time - we said at half-time we have to start doing what we wanted to do in the first place and don’t play into their hands because they play man-marking and were really on us. In that moment, you maybe remember the first pass through the half-space, Naby Keita could turn, then Sadio, if we had passed the ball there, all of a sudden they had the problems we had in the first half, so we turned and were running four or five players towards their last line. They were the situations we expected to have already in the first half. It was clear they would go for us, but if you press like them then you open up other spaces. It was clear if we won one-on-one situations in that moment, we have an advantage.

It’s more that you can really get yourself in that mood to do that because if the first shot is a goal for yourself then you start flying in that moment. If you concede a goal, it’s very often exactly the opposite and that’s what happened to us, so we had to force ourselves back in the game but the boys did it and all good.

On where this night compares to some of the other big European nights in his career...

I don’t like to compare, [but] yes, it’s a massive one. An absolutely massive one - being 2-0 down, the game looked like it looked, the whole world thought, ‘OK, this is rather 3-0 than a 2-1’ but maybe we knew that at half-time. So that’s the situation, that’s what everybody thinks, but we are still here, so we could give it a try actually. We just had to make sure that everybody could see that we try and that’s what we did in the second half.

Honestly, when I saw us first time passing through their line and could turn with the ball, I knew we had a good chance to turn it around. You still have to score, obviously, and it is not easy. The first goal we scored from Fabinho was a situation where Fab offers a run in a space where he never was before in the game. Just being really in a half-space, offering that run in behind, we passed the ball through. Obviously he was a bit lucky with the finish, but we had to break their lines and that’s what we did in the second half. That’s what made it really, really special. From where we were coming from, after two minutes, 1-0 down, with all the games the boys played, yes it was very special - and it is for me together with these other big European nights.

Published 3rd May 2022