Wed, Jan 09, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Wolves advance as Klopp defends not fielding stars

AFP, WOLVERHAMPTON, England

Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Raul Jimenez scores against Liverpool in their English FA Cup third-round match at the Molineux Stadium in Wolverhampton, England, on Monday.

Photo: AP

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp believes that an early injury to defender Dejan Lovren on Monday highlighted why he chose to name a second-string side in bowing out of the FA Cup 2-1 to Wolverhampton Wanderers. Klopp made nine changes to the side that on Thursday narrowly lost for the first time in the Premier League this season to Manchester City, with Lovren one of only two players to retain their place.

However, Lovren pulled a hamstring after just six minutes and was replaced by 16-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever.

“Hamstring is what I heard — without any signs before,” said Klopp on what forced Lovren off. “I asked everybody, no signs, nothing, just out of the blue, so that’s the decision you have to make.”

Goals from Raul Jimenez and Ruben Neves either side of halftime sent the hosts into round four, where they are to face Shrewsbury Town or Stoke City, despite Divock Origi’s fine strike briefly bringing Liverpool level after the break.

Hoever’s introduction meant that Liverpool fielded three teenagers for most of the match with Rafael Camacho and Curtis Jones also handed debuts.

However, it was the visitors’ most experienced player, Milner, who was at fault for the opening goal when Diogo Jota caught the former England international in possession in midfield and put Jimenez clean through for the Mexican to score his seventh goal of the season.

Without Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, Liverpool were struggling to get any momentum going forward.

However, the visitors were level out of nothing when Origi collected a loose ball on the edge of the area six minutes into the second period and smashed the ball high past John Ruddy.

Wolves, though, have made a habit of upsetting the Premier League’s established top six in their first season back in the top flight.

After beating Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur and holding City, Manchester United and Arsenal in the Premier League, Liverpool can be added to the list of scalps for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side thanks to a wonder strike from Neves.

“He has talent. He has done it before and we encourage him to shoot from range,” Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo said. “It was a good strike.”

Only a brilliant save from Ruddy denied Xherdan Shaqiri a stunning equalizer and Liverpool a replay as Shaqiri’s free-kick was touched onto the inside of the post by the Wolves goalkeeper.

Klopp had a final roll of the dice by throwing on Salah and Firmino for the final 20 minutes, but even their firepower failed to spark a fightback and Klopp’s team selection will now be seriously questioned as he has yet to deliver a trophy in his four seasons in charge.

However, with Liverpool still in pole position to deliver a first league title in 29 years, Klopp defended his selection to minimize the chance of his stars suffering injuries.

“We played a similar line-up and had three tough games in the last couple of weeks, so it was clear we had to change,” Klopp added after a run of four Premier League games in 13 days over the festive period.

“The intensity of the last few games gave me the information it was not possible to start with these three up front,” Klopp said. “Only Dejan played a lot of games in the last three or four weeks, pretty much all the games... He played today and was injured.”

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