Jurgen Klopp has been forced to defend Liverpool’s character and title credentials after their incredible meltdown in a stunning 4-3 defeat at Bournemouth.
Liverpool’s shock loss on Sunday came at a time when they looked set to move to within a point of leaders Chelsea and go into the Christmas period as one of the favourites to finish as champions for the first time since 1990.
However, the nervous manner of the team’s late collapse against a Bournemouth team who had never won against Liverpool in their history, has opened up a debate over whether Klopp’s squad is ready for such pressure.
Next weekend sees Liverpool face lowly West Ham at Anfield, but the Christmas fixture list also throws up far tougher games against Merseyside rivals Everton and title rivals Manchester City, with star player Philippe Coutinho missing all of them because of an ankle injury.
Klopp, however, sees no reason for panic despite his team conceding three goals in the last 14 minutes to turn a 3-1 lead into a 4-3 loss.
“We have no attitude or character problem,” he said. “No-one is born a winner. Not in the first two or three months. You have to learn it.
“It doesn’t feel too good right now but sometimes we need it. So I’m not angry. These things happen and you cannot be champions in December.
“I would say we were 100 percent before now. Now we are 99 percent. But it’s quite simple to go back to 100 percent.
“Nothing happened today apart from losing three points. Everything else is ok.”
– No concern –
Klopp did admit he wasn’t happy with certain aspects of Liverpool’s performance, however – accusing his team of ‘opening the door for Bournemouth’ in the latter stages of a match in which Liverpool scored excellent goals through Sadio Mane, Divock Origi and Emre Can.
But Klopp refused to place any blame at the door of goalkeeper Loris Karius, who spiled Steve Cook’s stoppage-time shot to gift Nathan Ake the winner – and was then heavily criticised by television pundit and former Liverpool player Jamie Carragher for his mistake.
“No, I have no concern,” Klopp insisted. “No problem. If you make mistakes you get criticised. That’s what happens in life.
“I’m sure people criticised Jamie Carragher in his career. It has no influence on what I do to my team. It says nothing about him as a goalkeeper. It happens. We go on.”
In contrast, Bournemouth players are celebrating a famous victory, having never previously beaten Liverpool in nine fixtures going all the way back to 1927.
The result takes them up to 10th, with matches against struggling Burnley and Leicester next on the agenda.
Their comeback was inspired by a match-winning performance from 22-year-old substitute Fraser, who only came on because of an injury to teammate Junior Stanislas in the second half with his team trailing 2-0.
The Scottish winger won a penalty with his first touch, scored Bournemouth’s second at 3-1 and set up his team’s equaliser as the game was turned on its head.
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, whose team were playing in England’s fourth tier as recently as six years ago, said: “I don’t think I’ll ever forget this game. It was a right contrast of emotions.
“At half time we were in real trouble and Liverpool were excellent and that makes the comeback even more impressive.
“I thought Ryan Fraser was absolutely magnificent. He’s a very young player and had to make a decision in his career to come down to England from Aberdeen, signing for a League One club at the time and that was a huge leap of faith.
“But hopefully it’s paid dividends. He’s got a great future.”