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Papers: Sympathy and support for Klopp, FSG urged to “speak up”

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There may have been a football match between Liverpool and Leeds, but the headlines are focused on far more pressing matters after the game.

The Reds knew that a win would be significant in their quest for a top-four finish in the Premier League, but they never merited all three points at Elland Road.

Sadio Mane tapped home from Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s pass to give Jurgen Klopp‘s side a 1-0 lead, but Leeds were the better team after that.

Diego Llorente equalised with time running out and Liverpool were left to rue two dropped points that could either mean a lot or nothing at all come the end of the season.

The media chose not to assess the game, on the whole, instead filling column inches by talking about the dire prospect of a breakaway European Super League.

 

There was plenty of support for Klopp, who handled an extremely difficult night admirably…

LEEDS, ENGLAND - Monday, April 19, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the pre-match warm-up before during the FA Premier League match between Leeds United FC and Liverpool FC at Elland Road. (Pic by Propaganda)

The Echo‘s Paul Gorst feels the Liverpool manager has been badly let down by FSG:

“Given the club’s owners had refused to put their own statement out there at the same time as their very strong private backing, to leave it to Klopp to be the first voice from Liverpool FC to field questions on it was an act of cowardice.

“Liverpool’s owners should not be allowed to help phase in this grand restructure that has left so many aghast and on the brink of ending their association with the game, without detailing why publicly.

“Fenway Sports Group, now is the time to speak up.

“After nearly six years of sterling service – in a period where Klopp has brought FSG the Champions League, Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup and, of course, the Premier League title – to throw him under the bus like this was a disgrace.

“Klopp did his best.”

Chris Bascombe of the Telegraph also had lots of sympathy for Klopp:

“Klopp saw the same story of too many missed chances and lack of defensive resistance when the pressure increases. Every neutral saw it as some kind of justice for the sins of his boardroom.

“Is that fair on Klopp and his players? He passionately argued not.

“Where he might usually see footballs, Klopp looked around Elland Road and must have felt by the scattering of hand grenades as he made his way to each host broadcaster.

“First there were the pre-match duties, Liverpool’s hierarchy using their manager as club spokesman and ambassador in addition to coach.

“There, Klopp stood, football manager as human shield, thrust in front of the camera to answer for his owners’ Super League plans and defending himself and players against a backlash not of his or their making. Oh for the days when the main point of contention was the omission of Mohamed Salah.”

Goal‘s Neil Jones praised the German for sticking to his past opinion on the matter:

“You felt for Klopp, forced to field questions that should be answered by those above him here.

“The Reds boss has already stated his position on a proposed Super League; he’s against it, and fair play to him, he hadn’t altered his stance when asked about it pre-match.

“He didn’t exactly go in hard against his bosses, but he made his feelings clear enough.”

Henry Winter of the Times was highly critical of John Henry, and rightly so:

“Klopp echoes Shankly in many ways, a real leader with personality and principles. But this is what Henry has inflicted on his manager.

“Inside Elland Road, Klopp was having to field questions about money. “I don’t know exactly why the six clubs did it,” Klopp told Sky Sports.

“Henry put his manager in that invidious position, hiding behind statements pumped out by clueless, money-fixated bankers, leaving his manager, a man with a conscience, to face the music.”

 

The meaningless feel of the game was also focused on…

LEEDS, ENGLAND - Monday, April 19, 2021: Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum (L) and James Milner after the FA Premier League match between Leeds United FC and Liverpool FC at Elland Road. (Pic by Propaganda)

Gorst bemoaned how lifeless the match seemed, given how important it would be in usual circumstances:

“It was the sort of game the Premier League loves to beam around the world and boast about. It was high octane, full of energy, graft and the odd flash of quality.

“But ultimately, did any of it even matter?

“To follow this game, indeed, to report on it in any great detail, would be to focus on the ant on the floor next to the herd of elephants in the room.

“There was a bigger story in Leeds on Monday night and it is one that is threatening to cut the very fabric of the game to ribbons.”

Aaron Bower of the Guardian echoed that sentiment:

“We should be talking about how the reigning Premier League champions once again slipped up in their quest to get into the Champions League next season.

Sadio Mane’s first-half strike, the least they deserved for their dominance in the opening 45 minutes, looked to be taking them fourth…whatever that means in a few weeks’ time when the dust settles on the sheer lunacy of the ESL.

“But a night which began with the Leeds players sporting T-shirts which read: ‘Champions League. Earn it’ and ‘Football is for the fans’ ended with Llorente claiming a well-merited equaliser for Leeds, one of so many rich, historic clubs in this country whose history and culture has been treated with nothing other than contempt by a handful of myopic owners.”

Meanwhile, Jones was in no mood to play down a terrible 24 hours:

“Liverpool drew with Leeds United in a game of football this evening. And that, really, is about as much I’m prepared to write about the matter.

“Sure, I could talk about Sadio Mane and Diego Llorente, about Jurgen Klopp and Marcelo Bielsa. I could go on about pressing and energy, give my take on midfield battles, attacking genius and defensive insecurities.

“I could even mention what this result means in terms of the Premier League table. Liverpool miss the chance to go fourth while Leeds remain 10th; all still to play for, with six matches remaining.

“But who cares about all that right now?

“No seriously, who cares?”

 

Away from the controversy, it was still potentially two valuable points dropped by Liverpool…

LEEDS, ENGLAND - Monday, April 19, 2021: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker (L) and Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' after the FA Premier League match between Leeds United FC and Liverpool FC at Elland Road. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Pic by Propaganda)

Bascombe rued a slip-up that could prove costly, should the ESL end up being nothing more than a bad dream:

“For now we ought to cling to the notion Leeds’ thrilling second half comeback holds significance in the top four race, Liverpool missing the chance to go above West Ham and Chelsea.

“Everyone appeared to be playing like it still mattered, Jurgen Klopp celebrating Sadio Mane’s opening goal with the usual effervescence, and expressing his despair as Leeds second half surge was rewarded.

“Marcelo Bielsa’s side deserved it having revived themselves after a poor first half. But for the woodwork and Alisson Becker they would have inflicted more damage to the idea that Klopp’s European participation next season will be via sporting rather than finance and heritage means.”

We at This Is Anfield were also frustrated by the result:

“And then there were six left.

“The sole point earned on the night after the late equaliser leaves the Reds still in sixth, two points behind West Ham in fourth.

“It remains a challenge to hunt down the Hammers and either Leicester or Chelsea, but this result lessens the chance of it happening.

[…]

“This year at least (so far), the Reds will have to do it the old-fashioned way.”

Next up for Liverpool is the visit of Newcastle on Saturday lunchtime (12.30pm) – who knows what things will look like by then!

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