Dries Mertens’ Anfield strike means Liverpool are on their worst run for keeping clean sheets since 1998 when BRAD FRIEDEL was in goal
The thing that has been special about Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool is their desire to keep breaking records but no satisfaction was forthcoming from their latest.
When Dries Mertens galloped through unopposed in the 22nd minute – with all the time in the world to watch a dipping ball from Giovanni Di Lorenzo drop in front of him – and swatted volley past Alisson Becker, this became the eleventh consecutive game that Liverpool had conceded.
If you think eleven sounds a lot, you would be right. To give this context, Liverpool are now on their worst run for keeping clean sheets since the spring of 1998 when Brad Friedel was their goalkeeper and Rob Jones, Dominic Matteo, Phil Babb and Stig Inge Bjornebye made up their defence.
When Dries Mertens galloped through unopposed in the 22nd minute and swatted volley past Alisson Becker, this became the eleventh consecutive game that Liverpool had conceded
Roy Evans’s team had talent but they were erratic and they went 12 matches, from February 7 to May 2, without stopping their opponents scoring. Such a record for that team doesn’t surprise. The porous figures for the class of 2019, by contrast, cannot help fail to raise an eyebrow.
The cornerstone of Liverpool’s progress under Klopp, particularly last season en route to the their sixth European crown, was the ability to place a hand on an opponent’s head and reduce them to taking air shots. In the knife-edge fixtures, when the pressure was intense, they were faultless.
For some reason, Liverpool have not given the same feeling this season. It may seem churlish to knit-pick about a team that has only dropped two points in the Premier League but if you think such a number will not bother Klopp, you do not appreciate the German’s relentless pursuit of perfection.
Dejan Lovren headed Liverpool’s equaliser from a corner in the second half of a tight game
So far, in 22 games, Liverpool have only had zeroes against Burnley, MK Dons and Sheffield United. To put another slant on that, Liverpool have played nine matches at Anfield to this point – and every visiting team, starting with Teemu Pukki for Norwich on August 9, has hit the target.
Things were not helped here by an early injury to Fabinho, Liverpool’s defensive midfield shield. The Brazilian left Anfield with foot in protective boot and he will require a scan to determine the extent of an injury that has Klopp fretting.
‘We hope that it is not serious,’ he said with a tone that was loaded with concern.
An absence to Fabinho would be huge but they simply must stop conceding. Yes, Liverpool are breathtaking when they attack there were flashes of exhilarating intensity as they pursued a winning goal but it wasn’t enough.
To focus purely on their forward play, though, would be blinkered. The first half was horrible and the manner in which Mertens charged unopposed into the 18-yard area, as Virgil van Dijk lay prone and his team-mates stood passively, had Klopp clasping his hands to his head.
Every visiting team at Anfield, starting with Teemu Pukki for Norwich in August, has scored
Nobody is questioning Liverpool’s talent or the fact that they have been the best team in Europe for the past 12 months. Just recently, however, one of the foundations – that miserly defence – has not been operating as it should have done.
Normal service must be resumed in Austria next month and if they need a reminder of the threat that awaits them in Salzburg, Erling Halaand – the most talked about young striker in Europe – scored another goal for Red Bull at the same time Liverpool were labouring.
‘We had to win 1-0 against Napoli 12 months ago to reach the last 16,’ Klopp pointed out. ‘I cannot remember a game with more pressure. It’s not brilliant (to need a result in Salzburg) but it’s OK. If we have ambitions in the Champions League again, we have to show it there.’