Jurgen Klopp hailed Liverpool’s resolve to overcome the difficulties posed by going for an unprecedented quadruple as a much-changed team beat Newcastle 1-0 to edge ahead of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
Naby Keita scored the solitary goal at St. James’ Park to take the Reds two points clear of City, who can retake the top spot when they travel to Leeds later on Saturday.
With the game sandwiched between two legs of a Champions League semi-final against Spanish side Villarreal, Klopp made five changes, including resting key players Mohamed Salah, Thiago Alcantara, Fabinho and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
However, the Reds still controlled the game against one of the in-form sides in the Premier League and could have been far more convincing winners had Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota taken their chances.
“I thought it was a top-class game in extremely difficult circumstances,” said Klopp, who had voiced his anger at being handed a lunchtime kick-off just three days after facing Villarreal.
“That’s why I’m really happy. You want to win football games and in the best case, you deserve to win. We did today 100 percent against a team in great form in a great atmosphere.”
Klopp had given Liverpool fans, even more, cause for celebration by extending his contract at Anfield by two years to 2026 on Thursday.
“For me it is a top week,” added the German, who is already the longest-serving manager in the Premier League.
“I’m really happy that I signed a new contract. It is an incredible place with incredible people. It’s exactly what I want at a club I love. I don’t take these things for granted.”
Only Liverpool have won more Premier League points in 2022 than Newcastle since the Magpies were able to begin splashing the cash of their new owners, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.
Eddie Howe’s men had won their previous six home games but were still no match for Klopp’s men, who continued an incredible run of form that has seen them take 40 points from the last 42 on offer in the league.
“I don’t think we quite got going,” said Howe. “We’re slightly disappointed with our own performance.”
Three of those brought back into the team by Klopp had a major role to play in the only goal as James Milner snapped into a tackle on Fabian Schar.
Newcastle were furious no free-kick was given, but as the visitors played on, Jota found Keita, who kept his cool to round Martin Dubravka and fire into the unguarded net.
Dubravka went on to keep Newcastle in the game as Mane fired straight at the Slovakian before he tipped over Jota’s towering header.
Mane then side-footed wide a glorious chance from Joe Gomez’s cross after the break much to Klopp’s dismay.
Chances continued to come and go as Dubravka twice repelled powerful efforts from Jota and flew off his line to smother Salah.
At the other end, on the rare occasions Newcastle threatened, the offside flag would have come to Liverpool’s rescue in any case.
Miguel Almiron had strayed well beyond the last defender when he found the net in the first half, while Chris Wood was also offside when he failed to beat Alisson Becker one-on-one.