Jürgen Klopp claimed his Liverpool team stopped playing in a remarkable Champions League tie against Sevilla as they blew a three-goal interval lead and the chance to secure a place in the knockout stage as group winners. "It feels like we lost the game," the Liverpool manager said.
Two goals from Roberto Firmino plus a Sadio Mané header gave Liverpool a seemingly unassailable half-time lead against a Sevilla side who had not lost at home in 12 months. But a second-half fightback featuring two goals from Wissam Ben Yedder and an equaliser by Guido Pizarro in the third minute of injury time rekindled memories of the 2016 Europa League final between the clubs.
The draw keeps Liverpool top of the group and needing a point at home to Spartak Moscow next month to progress. They would have been assured of qualification as group winners with victory in Spain.
“The description of the game is easy,” Klopp said. “Fantastic first half for us, the second half we made a mistake – we didn’t carry on playing football. It’s normal to try to control the game but a team like us has to control the game with the ball.
“We didn’t play football any more. We became passive, they scored the first, then it was obvious the atmosphere changed immediately. That gave them a big boost. Until the second goal we were reactive. After the second goal it was an open game again but we couldn’t score off the counterattacks. We opened the door for them, didn’t close it, so they could score in the last minute. That’s the story of the game.”
Liverpool wilted under pressure in the second half but Klopp denied the collapse was evidence of a suspect mentality among his players.
He said: “No, it does not. We showed already a fantastic mentality, Dortmund [4-3 in April 2016] being the obvious one, and we showed it in a lot of games. Yes it was not perfect tonight but it’s not a general problem. It just happened. In this atmosphere, we need to get more and more experience. Could we have done better? 100 per cent. Do I think it’s a mentality problem? 100 per cent not. It was misjudgment, we wanted to play like we played the first half and control the game but then we became a little bit passive. It’s football and until the final whistle everything is possible. I knew that before.”
Sevilla’s players were reportedly informed at half-time that coach Eduardo Berizzo has prostrate cancer before producing the stirring comeback that means Klopp has yet to beat Sevilla in seven matches as a manager. He admitted it would be difficult to accept the positive of remaining top of the group. “We have a point more than we had this afternoon,” he said.
“In this moment, it feels like we lost the game. We didn’t lose the game but it feels like we have. Sevilla feel like they won but they didn’t. That’s our business, that’s our life. We have to start preparing for Chelsea (on Saturday)pretty much immediately.
“I try to explain it, my explanation for most is not good enough, I’m sorry about that. The game, we played it already. We have to accept the result. I cannot change that.”