Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits it was not easy to take off Xherdan Shaqiri at half-time after the Switzerland international had played such a pivotal role in the 3-0 win over Southampton at Anfield.
The 26-year-old, on his first start since a £12million summer move from Stoke, had a hand in the Reds’ first and third goals but still had to be sacrificed at the break because Klopp felt holes needed to be plugged.
“No it was not easy, to be honest. It’s my job to sometimes deliver news nobody wants to hear,” said the German.
“I said to Shaq at half-time that I’d never taken a player off at half-time after such an influential half.
“He was not injured, but I wanted to control the game, go back to our normal formation, and that helped us.
“That’s how it was at half time, but he’s a fantastic boy so there was no problem. I explained it to him, usually I don’t explain substitutions but I thought today it made a bit of sense.
“I would have done the same if it had been 2-0. That was the plan. We saw that we had a few problems.”
Klopp changed his formation to 4-2-3-1 to accommodate Shaqiri in a number 10 role and it paid off with his deflected cross resulting in an own goal by Wesley Hoedt, with his free-kick cannoning down off the crossbar for Mohamed Salah to score from close range to make it 3-0 after Joel Matip had doubled his side’s lead.
“It’s just good to have him. You saw the free-kick, it was outstanding. What a ball!” added Klopp.
“The whole team was not used to the system and as a new player usually you struggle most, but he didn’t. He tried everything, the only problem was defensive.
“Offensively, it was a good idea, but we have to work a bit more on that. He was good, I liked it.”
Klopp allayed injury fears over Virgil van Dijk after the centre-back was taken off with a rib problem just before the hour mark.
The Holland international was unlikely to play in the midweek Carabao Cup tie at home to Chelsea anyway so will have a whole week to recover before the Premier League encounter between the two sides at Stamford Bridge.
“He had already, before the PSG game, kind of a bruised rib, which is very uncomfortable, and he got another hit there,” said Klopp.
“It’s not cool, but should not be too serious. He said he couldn’t shout any more, so that’s obviously 60 per cent less of his level.
“He should be absolutely OK, hopefully. I didn’t hear anything different.”
Southampton manager Mark Hughes admitted his side struggled to get a handle on their opponents and went behind too early.
He said: “We aren’t the first, we won’t be the last who aren’t able to cope with the attacking threat they have.
“We were unfortunate with the opening goal, a ricochet off a couple of players and it ends up in the back of the net.
“You obviously want to start well at Anfield and that was a setback.
“I thought 3-0 was harsh. Second half was clearly a damage-limitation act.”
Hughes, who managed Shaqiri at Stoke, backed his former player to succeed at Anfield.
“I had the benefit of Shaq’s free-kicks for a long time, unfortunately it went against me today,” he added.
“He always felt he was a top-six player, he’s a good guy that’ll do very well here.”