An animated Jurgen Klopp took aim at Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder and mocked the Blades’ position at the foot of the Premier League table as the Liverpool boss again argued for teams to be allowed to make five substitutions this season.
Klopp said pointedly that Wilder’s side “have three subs and one point” in a heated touchline interview following Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at Brighton.
The Blades had been one of the clubs to object to five substitutes, a rule which has been reintroduced in the EFL, with Wilder quoted recently as describing Klopp as a “world-class politician, who cares about Liverpool – that’s all he cares about”.
“Chris Wilder or whoever says constantly that I am selfish,” Klopp said on BT Sport.
“I think all the things he said show that he’s selfish. I was in a similar situation when I worked at Mainz and it was all about staying in the league, but they have three subs and one point if I am right. If you can’t do five subs in a game like this, it’s not for tactical reasons.”
Klopp’s injury-hit squad were dealt a further blow when James Milner was forced off with a hamstring injury, although club captain Jordan Henderson made his return for the first time since the international break as a half-time substitute.
“Hamstring, surprise, and they (Brighton) had injuries, but ask Chris Wilder how we can avoid that,” said Klopp.
Speaking afterwards in the press conference, he added: “Brighton lost today two players with muscle injuries and they played one game a week, so the most difficult time is coming up now – for Sheffield United as well, by the way, and we will see.
“If we would have had five subs today then Andy Robertson I would have taken off, I have Kostas Tsimikas on the bench and he could play 15, 20 minutes, whatever. We don’t have a lot of options in the moment – we have but they are all offensive so you can’t just bring them all through the season.
“And it’s not the solution but it’s a little help, that is all. Whatever Chris Wilder says, I don’t speak only about Liverpool – he speaks only about Sheffield United, that’s true, he admitted that in the managers’ meeting, but I speak about football players.”
In Klopp’s heated interview with BT Sport’s Des Kelly he also hit out at the scheduling of Premier League games, claiming it was putting players at risk of injury.
Liverpool played Atalanta in the Champions League three days earlier, with Klopp saying: “After Wednesday, Saturday 12.30 is really dangerous for the players.”
On the pitch it was a last-gasp Brighton penalty equaliser that denied Liverpool victory, cancelling out Diogo Jota’s cleverly-worked opener.
Neal Maupay had already fired wide with Brighton’s first penalty of the match when referee Stuart Attwell pointed to the spot following a VAR review. Pascal Gross this time made no mistake, firing the ball past Alisson Becker to level.
Liverpool had the ball in the back of the net twice only for VAR to intervene and rule out both Mohamed Salah’s first-half strike and Sadio Mane’s header for offside.
Asked about the penalty and the two disallowed goals, Klopp said: “My analysts told me that Mo was offside, very very close but small margins like that, a toe or whatever. Sadio was with his upper body, I didn’t see that, I heard that, but that sounds like twice offside even when it was close. But good play, all these kind of things.
“Second penalty is a penalty because the ref whistled it. Because there was contact and the ref thinks it’s enough and we cannot change that obviously, and that’s the whole situation.”
Milner said the football authorities needed to have a “serious discussion” about VAR.
He tweeted: “It’s “clear and obvious” we need a serious discussion about VAR. Sure I’m not alone in feeling like they are falling out of love with the game in its current state.”
Brighton manager Graham Potter was pleased with his side’s performance and insisted his side deserved something.
When asked about the second penalty, Potter said: “It wasn’t the most stonewall penalty that I’ve seen I would say.
“But we spoke about it before the game, sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t and it’s a beautiful part of football that will always be debated – referees’ decisions and linesmen’s decisions as well.
“We said as well that you need the margins to go your way in the Premier League and I thought it clearly went our way today but at the same time I thought our performance level was really really good and we deserved something.”
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