Liverpool still have hope of cracking the top four, but their late attack on Champions League football could be derailed if manager Jurgen Klopp’s comments about referee Paul Tierney come back to bite them.
Following the dramatic 4-3 win over Tottenham, in which the Reds needed a Diogo Jota stoppage-time goal to extend a four-game winning streak after blowing a 3-0 lead in the first 15 minutes, Klopp he said he did not know what the official “has against us.”
Klopp was booked for his overzealous celebration in front of fourth official John Brooks, but said of Tierney’s attitude: “What he said to me when he gave me the yellow card is not right.”
Professional Game Match Officials Limited responded quickly, saying in a statement: “PGMOL is aware of the comments made by Jurgen Klopp after his team’s match with Tottenham Hotspur.
“Match officials in the Premier League are recorded at all games via a communications system and having fully reviewed referee Paul Tierney’s audio from today’s match, we can confirm that he acted in a professional manner throughout. including as he admonished the Liverpool manager so we therefore strongly reject any suggestion that Tierney’s actions were inappropriate.”
But it’s Klopp’s suggestion of bias that is likely to land him in trouble with the Football Association and could lead to him receiving a touchline ban for Liverpool’s few remaining matches.
He was previously warned about his conduct after being banned for one match and fined £30,000 after the FA successfully won an appeal against the leniency of his punishment for berating an assistant referee during October’s home win over Manchester City.
Klopp’s absence from the touchline for any or all of Liverpool’s remaining eminently winnable games against Fulham, Brentford, Leicester, Aston Villa and Southampton could kill their momentum and ruin their outside chances of catching fourth-placed Manchester United. which currently has seven. points ahead with a match in hand.
One mistake and the best Liverpool can hope for is Europa League football, but they came close to throwing it away against Spurs having built a three-goal lead thanks to goals from Curtis Jones, Luis Diaz and Mohamed Salah.
Harry Kane equaled Wayne Rooney’s tally of 208 Premier League goals just before half time, leaving only Alan Shearer (260) ahead of him on the all-time list, and when Richarlison’s first Premier League goal league in added time followed Son Heung-min’s 77. minute of effort, Spurs seemed to have escaped with an unlikely equalizer.
However, just 99 seconds after the equalizer, Jota scored his fifth goal in four games to spark wild celebrations (some would say too wild in Klopp’s case) as Liverpool’s slim Champions League qualification hopes were kept alive.
“Sometimes we don’t make it half as difficult for ourselves,” said midfielder Harvey Elliott, back on the team after nearly a month.
“We started the game incredibly well, scoring three goals in quick succession and personally I think we took our foot off the gas a bit and allowed them to play a bit more football without playing ourselves.
“It is difficult to explain. It’s not a lack of concentration. Maybe because going 3-0 early almost never happens, so the way we approach it is new to us.
“It’s always a tough situation because emotions are running high, it works well and then we just decided to change and didn’t do our game plan.
“We decided to keep the ball and I felt it was a bit slow in the way we moved it and that caused us problems. That’s something we have to get out of.”
Ryan Mason, two games into another spell as caretaker head coach following the sacking of Cristian Stellini following the 6-1 embarrassment at Newcastle, was less interested in Tottenham’s four best chances now that they had slipped to sixth than in repair some of the recent damage.
“My priority is to come together, create good feelings and energy in the venue and bring our fans with us,” he said.
“The only way to do that is by winning games, so it’s hard to accept. We are devastated by the way we lost the game.”