Jürgen Klopp reacted to Liverpool’s frustrating draw with West Ham by admitting his players need to raise their game to deliver the club’s first league title since 1990.
Liverpool's second successive stalemate means they are three points above Manchester City, who will go top if they beat Everton at Goodison Park on Wednesday night, and five clear of Tottenham with 13 games left. Although Liverpool will hav e agame in hand. The Premier League's pacesetters looked nervy and lost more momentum after Michail Antonio cancelled out Sadio Mané's controversial opener on a tense night.
“If you want to be top at the end of the season, you have to deal with much tougher situations than we had today,” Klopp said. “For the last five, six, seven weeks, we talked about a two-horse race but now Tottenham are in behind,” Klopp said. “For me they are 100 per cent in the race.”
However, Liverpool’s manager, who said that Mané’s goal should have been ruled out for offside, insisted he was happy with a point. “I see your faces and you are feeling sorry for us but we are fine,” he said. “If you get a point at West Ham, that’s fine. That’s not a surprise. If you want to win big things you have to be ready for these tight races.”
Klopp bristled after being informed of Mark Noble's claim that Liverpool were scared of West Ham. "I wish for West Ham fans that Mark Noble and his team would scare more teams and not only us tonight," he said. "I don't know him really well, so I don't know why he speaks about us after a game like that. They defended well, that's true.
“They didn’t scare us – it’s a normal away game. We have won away games when we played worse than tonight and nobody spoke about it afterwards.
“They have quality; there’s no doubt about it. Why they don’t have more results I don’t know. They had a result but I didn’t see that they scared us.”
Klopp pointed out that injuries had disrupted his side's rhythm. Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren were unavailable, while James Milner and Virgil van Dijk started despite suffering from the effects of a virus.
“It’s a long season,” he said. “We lost one game all season. The team is doing well. It’s a tough moment. Milly was ill. Maybe he is still ill. Virg was out three or four days and lost four kilos. Could we have played better? 100 per cent. But the games are difficult.
“I don’t moan about it. It’s just a fact. It’s not an excuse. We could have played better tonight. Milly came back but he didn’t train yesterday. The preparation for the game is far from being perfect but we still got a point.”
Manuel Pellegrini said West Ham deserved to win and refused to reveal the content of his discussion with Klopp at full time. Instead West Ham's manager harked back to how Klopp knocked his Málaga team out of the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund in 2013.
“He is used to beating me with offside,” Pellegrini said. “He beat me with Málaga with a goal that was seven metres offside, so he cannot complain about tonight.”
Pellegrini added that he had done another of his former employers a favour. “If we are going to give a hand to Manchester City, who were also my club, maybe the manager of Liverpool didn’t like it,” he said.