Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool’s Champions League tie against Inter Milan is “only at half-time” after a 2-0 win at the San Siro, and revealed an injury concern for Diogo Jota.
Liverpool faced a tough trip to Italy in first leg of their last-16 match, but late goals from Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah saw them take control of the tie.
As Klopp admits himself, it was not Liverpool’s best performance as Inter Milan tested them throughout, but the visitors’ European experience won through late on.
However, the only downside of the victory was an ankle injury for Jota, who has scored 17 goals in all competitions this season, and was replaced by Firmino at half-time.
Klopp said: “It’s half-time, nothing else. It will be a tricky one and we have to be ready for that. They played good, they played differently, but they are really good and that’s why it is half-time, 2-0.
“If it is a proper half-time, Like today, if it was 2-0 at half-time I don’t tell my boys ‘Job done, put your legs on the table’. It is a tricky result so why should we think about it now.
“It was an incredibly physical game so we had to find a way… We didn’t have a brilliant day but a good enough day to be deserved winners because we scored two wonderful goals. They had their moments, but mainly counter-attacks when we lost the ball in the wrong spaces.
“I’m really happy with everything, apart from that Diogo had to go off with something around the ankle ligament. We will see, we don’t know exactly.
“He could have played on, maybe that’s a good sign, but at half-time, the ankle was swollen anyway so we knew we had to change.”
Despite the firepower on the pitch for both sides, Firmino’s opening goal in the 75th minute was the first shot on target, with Salah’s follow-up the second and last of the game.
Inter Milan ended the match with no shots on target – with Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate imperious at the back to see Liverpool keep their sixth clean sheet in eight matches – but a lack of shots on target is something that does not bother Klopp now the game has concluded.
He added: “After the game, I couldn’t care less, but during the game, we didn’t finish the situations often enough.
“Bobby needed time to get into the game because he got the balls in the most difficult areas… After he scored the goal, you could see the confidence back all of a sudden, the ball was our friend again and we won the game.
“We defended really well, the way you have to defend. We like to win the ball early but sometimes it is not possible.
“You have to defend with passion, organisation helps as well. Defensively it was a really strong performance but it would be silly if we didn’t defend well as it means a lot to us this competition and we invested a lot.”
‘An important game for Elliott’
Wednesday’s game also marked a first Champions League appearance for Harvey Elliott (18y 318d), overtaking team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold (18y 354d v Spartak Moscow in 2017) as the youngest player to start a European Cup/Champions League match for Liverpool.
It caps off a remarkable comeback from a knee injury sustained against Leeds in September as Klopp continues to show his faith in the midfielder.
When asked about Elliott’s performance, the Liverpool boss said: “It was absolutely OK, but Harvey can play much better, we know that.
I think this match was good. We have to be proud, we played against one of the best teams in Europe and for 65 minutes we deserved to win it but it didn’t happen and we didn’t manage to score. If we take a look at our rival we have played very well because our opponent was very good.
“The reason Harvey played was because we knew which spaces we had to play and it’s usually naturally his area, these half-spaces around the midfield three, being very flexible, naturally offensive-minded and all these kind of things. That’s why he played. He had really good moments but we all know he can play much better.
“He did the job, he was working incredibly hard and all these kind of things. When you are 18 years old and play against one of the most experienced teams in world football and they are Italian on top of that, for an offensive player it’s not a walk in the park.
“It was a very, very important game for him and very helpful for us as well.”
Van Dijk: We expected to be under pressure
Liverpool defender Van Dijk said he and his teammates expected to be under pressure against Inter Milan in their home stadium, but was pleased with overall performance.
He told BT Sport: “It’s a tough place to come, of course. They are a very good team, consistent and difficult to break down.
“The atmosphere was incredible, I really enjoyed it out there. And obviously it was very important with the set-pieces in the end again – that’s obviously a very good strength of ours and hopefully we can keep on using this.
“I think it was a very solid performance and a good result to take back home.
“Everyone expected to be under pressure because they are a very good team and it’s the Champions League. I think also one of the messages before the game was ‘you need to be ready to suffer, you need to be ready to do the hard work’ and we definitely did. It’s a very, very good performance, a clean sheet and well, happy days.”