Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp said he was pleased with his team’s performance but disappointed with a late show of inexperience after his team conceded in injury-time to lose 1-0 in Thursday’s Europa League semifinal first leg at Villarreal.
A tight and tactical first half saw few clear chances and no goals, while the second period saw both Villarreal’s Cedric Bakambu and Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino hit the woodwork.
Just as it seemed the teams were heading towards next Thursday’s second leg at Anfield with the tie neatly balanced, Villarreal struck in the 90th minute with a beautifully-constructed counter involving Bruno Soriano and Denis Suarez finished from close range by substitute Adrian Lopez.
The Reds coach told his postgame news conference at El Madrigal that his team had paid for getting too carried away with trying to score late on, but said it was much too early for Villarreal to be celebrating anything yet.
“I am pleased with the performance, we did very good today,” Klopp said. “Everybody knew nothing about Villarreal will know more. They are a good side, but we are too. We controlled most of the game, which is not too usual here, then a 92nd minute counter attack does not sound too good.
“That should not happen, but we had a great moment with Alberto, Christian [Benteke’s] header, and the youth came through. Until then it was a really professional performance. It is the first leg — my first thinking when they were all celebrating the goal around me was sorry but it is not over yet, you have to come to Anfield and we will be ready.”
Klopp rued an offside decision when midfielder Adam Lallana was called back when clear on goal midway through the second half.
“We had no luck,” he said. “I was really disappointed that Lallana was not offside in that moment. In big games you need right decisions. But it is like it is.”
Liverpool had played quite cautiously in the game as they were aware of Villarreal’s danger on the break, Klopp admitted.
“They are very good on the counter-attack we know that,” he said. “We cannot run like rabbits all the times, but today we were patient, we played between the lines. I was pleased with this, I did not want to concede, but we did.”
The German said his feelings about how the tie would end up had not changed after the first 90 minutes, with everything still to be decided at Anfield next week, even if he knew his team could not always repeat the spectacular nature of the comeback against Borussia Dortmund in the last round.
“I am no more or less confident than before the game,” he said. “I have no more information now. Now we have to find solutions for a few things, but we are on a good way and I saw a lot of things that show that we can do it. It does not mean that we will, but with the help of Anfield we can.
“Please do not compare everything with Dortmund, but things are possible — 1-0 is not the biggest result in the world. Before we were an English team, a big name, no quality, now they know we have a little bit of quality.”
Close to the end of the press conference, Klopp interrupted a Spanish reporter in full flight: “I’m not sure of your question, but I’ve an answer I want to give — it will be a completely different game at Anfield.”
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