Takumi Minamino and Joel Matip seal 2-1 comeback win at Southampton which keeps Premier League title race alive; Klopp hails the performance of his players after making nine changes from Saturday's FA Cup win over Chelsea; Liverpool one point behind Man City going into final day
Wednesday 18 May 2022 11:22, UK
Jurgen Klopp said he was 'touched' by the performance of his fringe players in Liverpool's victory at Southampton, likening their quality to having 'Ferraris in the garage'.
The Liverpool boss had made nine changes to the team which beat Chelsea in a penalty shoot-out in Saturday's FA Cup final and was without injured pair Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk.
But after Nathan Redmond's early goal, Takumi Minamino and Joel Matip turned the match around to secure the win needed to take the Premier League title race to the final day.
Liverpool are just a point behind Manchester City ahead of Sunday's finale, when the Reds will host Wolves and City face Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium. Klopp was full of pride for the performance of his much-changed team.
Minamino was making his first Premier League start of the season, while seven other players from the XI had under 10 league starts to their name this term.
"It's a bit overwhelming, it's really touching what the boys did," he told Sky Sports.
"I told them after the game, what I did to a few of them and had to do because of the situation, is pretty much a crime.
"That Takumi [Minamino] doesn't play more often, that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is in outstanding shape and is not part of the squad very often, Harvey [Elliott] didn't play for a long time, Curtis [Jones] didn't play for a long time and all these boys deliver and deliver and deliver and it's unbelievable.
"Making nine changes and this kind of performance is exceptional. We would have much more problems if we'd played the guys who played 120 minutes on Saturday."
Klopp added in his post-match press conference: "After making nine changes, if it didn't work out it was my responsibility, now it worked out it's the boys' responsibility. I thought they did exceptionally well. Some incredible performances.
"I'm so happy about the performance it was a bit touching. Wow. These boys. It's like having Ferraris in the garage."
Dissecting the game, Klopp was particularly pleased with the resilience of his team after Redmond's opener on 13 minutes. If Liverpool had lost, City would have been crowned champions. But they battled back.
"I saw a group reaction to a blow [for the Southampton goal]," said Klopp. "I didn't see it back but thought it was a clear foul [in the build-up] and in these situations you can lose nerves but the boys kept going. We controlled the game. We calmed that atmosphere down, it became a normal game and not the game Southampton wanted.
"The last 10 minutes, we have to work on how we can play time down without getting into trouble but a deserved three points. Fantastic.
"It's really tough for the boys sometimes but whatever happens this year happens because of this group, it's exceptional and tonight they showed that again.
"I expect them to react like they react but it's not normal it's special. This group is really, really special."
Man City vs Aston Villa; Liverpool vs Wolves
Man City will clinch the title if they at least match Liverpool's result on the final day.
A City defeat and Liverpool draw would also be enough for Guardiola's men, assuming City's loss to Villa did not cause a seven-goal swing on goal difference.
City will clinch the title if they at least match Liverpool's result on the final day. A City defeat and Liverpool draw would also be enough for Guardiola's men, assuming City's loss to Villa did not cause a seven-goal swing on goal difference.
The odds are in City's favour and Liverpool supporters will be hoping for a favour from former captain and current Villa boss Steven Gerrard. But Klopp says the Liverpool team will focus on their own fixture and see where that leaves them come the final whistle to the season.
"If I'm in [City's] situation I don't feel like I'm champion again [yet]," he said. "It's football. We have to first win our game. That's difficult enough."
The one disappointment for Liverpool on Tuesday night was an injury picked up by defender Joe Gomez at the end of the first half.
The 24-year-old - who suffered a long-term knee injury in November 2020 - appeared to go down awkwardly from a challenge and was replaced by Jordan Henderson.
"I hope we're lucky," said Klopp. "Joe himself has pain but not too much. He's sitting in the dressing room and when I spoke to him he was in a good mood."
May 22 - Wolves (h) Premier League
May 28 - Real Madrid (n) Champions League final