Having seen his side follow up victory in the Merseyside derby by dropping two points at home to Bournemouth, coming back from a goal down at Stoke was, Klopp said, vital for Liverpool’s hopes of returning to European football’s elite competition.
“Job done, 63 points and I couldn’t feel any better,” he said after a victory that put Liverpool nine points clear of Arsenal in fifth, who have two games in hand. “Now we have a very long week. No team in the world wins only the very, very good games. You need to win games like this.”
He added: “This is a massive win. If we had only drawn it would have felt like a defeat. We have won a few games like this but this is really special and you could feel it in the dressing room. We all worked very hard and we are really happy.”
Stoke 1 Liverpool 2 player ratings
Stoke 1 Liverpool 2 player ratings
1/24 Lee Grant – 6 out of 10
Caught off his line by Firmino, but in truth, was little else he could do about such an inch-perfect strike.
2/24 Glen Johnson – 5 out of 10
Initially comfortable against his former club but, like many of his teammates, faded as the game went on.
3/24 Bruno Martins Indi – 5 out of 10
Too easily let Firmino slip for Liverpool’s second after a long ball over the top.
4/24 Ryan Shawcross – 6 out of 10
Has the measure of Origi, but struggled once up against the quality of Firmino.
5/24 Erik Pieters – 6 out of 10
Another who was not troubled by anything Liverpool tried in the first half, but Clyne proved to be a much tougher opponent than Alexander-Arnold.
6/24 Xherdan Shaqiri – 8 out of 10
Enjoyed himself against Clyne, especially for the goal, producing an inch-perfect cross for Walters.
7/24 Geoff Cameron – 6 out of 10
Had no trouble with Liverpool’s midfield in the first half but was overran as the visitors gained momentum in the second.
8/24 Joe Allen – 6 out of 10
Injured early on in a challenge and forced off, will be disappointed to not have lasted against his former club. Replaced by Charlie Adam.
9/24 Marko Arnautovic – 7 out of 10
Had his way with Liverpool’s makeshift backline before the break but saw his influence diminish in the second half.
10/24 Saido Berahino – 5 out of 10
Really should have levelled the score when presented with a simple tap in a few yards out.
11/24 Jonathan Walters – 7 out of 10
A handful for Liverpool’s defence and took his goal well, but was fading by the time he was replaced.
12/24 Simon Mignolet – 9 out of 10
Saved his team on several occasions, particularly with two brilliant point-blank saves.
13/24 Trent Alexander-Arnold – 4 out of 10
Like his fellow teenager Woodburn, struggled with the physicality of the game. Perhaps should not have been thrown in at the deep end, was subbed at half time.
14/24 Ragnar Klavan – 4 out of 10
Continued his worrying vein of form with another disappointing performance. Never looked comfortable up against a runner like Arnautovic.
15/24 Joel Matip – 4 out of 10
Should have blocked the cross for Walters’ goal but appeared to duck out of its way.
16/24 Dejan Lovren – 6 out of 10
Will be unfairly singled out for the goal, was left with three men to mark.
17/24 Nathaniel Clyne – 6 out of 10
Could have done better to track Shaqiri and prevent the cross for Walters’ goal. Massive improvement in the second half on his preferred right flank, especially offensively.
18/24 Emre Can – 5 out of 10
Another underwhelming display, though it featured moments when Can showed he can be the all-action, bustling midfield presence Liverpool need. Those moments were too rare.
19/24 Georginio Wijnaldum – 4 out of 10
One of his poorest displays in a Liverpool shirt, one with many mistimed tackles. Heading a Stoke corner back into his own box at the start of the second half was suicidal.
20/24 James Milner – 7 out of 10
Probably Liverpool’s best outfield player before Coutinho and Firmino’s introductions, but that was not saying much. Adapted well to a midfield role after spending the season at left-back.
21/24 Ben Woodburn – 4 out of 10
Will feel he deserved a penalty just prior to Stoke’s goal, but ultimately, the incident was an example of how easily he was bullied.
22/24 Divock Origi – 6 out of 10
Struggled alone up top in the first half but also lacked any kind of service. Replaced by Daniel Sturridge.
23/24 Philippe Coutinho – 9 out of 10
Even when under the weather, the best player on the pitch. The game changed following his introduction.
24/24 Roberto Firmino – 8 out of 10
Superbly taken goal. He may be tired, but Klopp cannot afford to rest him over the coming weeks.
Although his team selection appeared bewildering, with Divick Origi and 17-year-old Ben Woodburn leading Liverpool’s attack, Klopp explained he thought it impossible to start with Philippe Coutinho, who had been suffering from illness, and Roberto Firmino. Both came on at half time and each scored a goal that overturned Jonathan Walters’s first-half header for Stoke.
“Neither Roberto nor Phil was ready for 45 minutes,” said Klopp. “Phil had played against Manchester City, gone to Brazil, come back for the derby and he had lost three kilos in weight in three days – that would be a good thing for most of us but not for Phil.
“He came over to me in the hotel this morning and said: ‘I’m fine’ but we knew that, if he started, he would have very low energy levels. We thought he could play for about 30 minutes.
“It was not my intention to make two changes at half time but the alarm clock was ringing and we needed to make some changes. I thought a lot about my decision and I thought we could have played much better than we did.”
It gave Klopp no pleasure that the two players to make way for Firmino and Coutinho were Liverpool’s two teenagers, Woodburn and Trent Alexander-Arnold. “I didn’t like to do it but the situation demanded it,” he said.
“We didn’t defend like we usually do so we couldn’t play high pressure and Stoke scored. There were too many long balls and nobody seemed to know the system. It didn’t look like the best days of their (the two teenagers’) lives. They will be disappointed but we will help them.
“I thought Ben did his job because the foul on him (from Erik Pieters) was a clear penalty. He was in the position to win the penalty so he had done his job and it is not their job to be the best players on the pitch. They are fantastic boys.”Reuse content