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Klopp clear Premier push is the priority

China Daily | Updated: 2019-01-09 10:31
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp before the match, Anfield, Liverpool, Britain, August 7, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

Liverpool boss stands by changes as league-leading Reds exit FA Cup

WOLVERHAMPTON, England - Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes an injury to defender Dejan Lovren highlighted why he chose to name a second-string side in bowing out of the FA Cup 2-1 to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday.

Klopp made nine changes to the side that lost for the first time in the Premier League this season to Manchester City last Thursday, with Lovren one of only two players to retain their place.

However, the Croatian pulled up with a hamstring injury 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 Lovren's problem. "I asked everybody, no signs, nothing, just out of the blue, so that's the decision you have to make.

"I am not sure what you all would have said if immediately from the beginning if our center-half situation was Fabinho and Ki-Jana; then probably a few very smart people would tell me that I don't respect the competition or whatever."

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

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

However, it was the visitor's most experienced player, James 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 first-choice trio Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, Liverpool struggled to get any momentum going forward.

But the Reds equalized out of nothing when Origi collected a loose ball on the edge of the area six minutes into the second period and smashed past John Ruddy.

Wolves, though, have made a habit of upsetting the Premier League's big guns in their first season back in the top flight.

After beating Chelsea and Tottenham and holding City, Manchester United and Arsenal in the Premier League, Liverpool can now 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," said Nuno. "It was a good strike."

Only a brilliant save from Ruddy denied Xherdan Shaqiri a stunning equalizer and Liverpool a replay as the Swiss attacker's freekick was touched onto the inside of the post by the Wolves keeper.

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 questioned as he is still to deliver a trophy in four seasons in charge at Anfield.

However, with Liverpool still in pole position-four points ahead of second-place City-to deliver a first league title in 29 years, the German coach defended his selection to minimize the chance of his stars suffering injuries.

"We played a similar lineup 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. 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."

Arsenal draws United

The FA Cup's two most successful ever sides will meet in the fourth round as 13-time winner Arsenal hosts 12-time champion Manchester United.

Premier League champion City is at home to Burnley, while Tottenham faces a tough London derby against Crystal Palace.

Holder Chelsea has an easier task at home to second-tier Sheffield Wednesday or third-tier Luton Town.

Fourth-tier Welsh minnow Newport County's reward for knocking out 2016 Premier League champion Leicester City is a trip to Championship club Middlesbrough.

The ties will be played between Jan 25 and 28.

Other matchups:

Swansea vs Gillingham

Wimbledon vs West Ham

Millwall vs Everton

Brighton vs West Brom

Bristol City vs Bolton

Accrington Stanley vs Derby or Southampton

Barnet vs Brentford

Portsmouth vs QPR

AFP

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