LIVERPOOL, UK, 12 Dec. – Jurgen Klopp has said he “would love” for Steven Gerrard to be his successor after securing the former Liverpool captain’s return to Anfield as the Aston Villa manager ended in a 1-0 loss on Saturday.
Mohamed Salah’s second-half penalty saw the Reds take home three vital points as they remain just one point behind Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
Klopp’s men should have been more convincing winners as they dominated the vast majority of the game but were frustrated with a combination of Villa’s desperate defense and poor finishes.
Liverpool had to resist a nervous final as Gerrard believed his side should also have received a penalty when Alisson Becker beat Danny Ings.
“The first 75 minutes were amazing football,” said Klopp. “We played in the spaces we wanted to play but we didn’t finish the situations, which is tricky.
“We scored with the penalty, then the relief was obviously too much and it was an unnecessary open game. (The last 15 minutes) it was like a toothache! Nobody needs this.
Gerrard said ahead of the game that he would willingly sacrifice some of his legendary status among Liverpool’s backing for a result on his maiden trip to Anfield as a member of the visiting team.
The man who has scored 186 goals in 710 games as a Liverpool player was greeted with soft applause as he stepped out of the tunnel, but there had been no great fanfare for his return until let the Kop chant his name shortly after the full-time whistle.
“You have to understand that when you come to the Premier League you’re going to have these days,” Gerrard said. “There is a lot of emotion, but I tried to focus on Aston Villa and make sure that is the priority.”
Gerrard, who joined Villa last month after three and a half years as Rangers manager, has been named as Klopp’s successor when the German’s contract expires in 2024.
“The good thing is that I have no problem with that sort of thing,” Klopp said of speculation about his future. “I won’t be here forever so I wish it was Stevie, but no, I didn’t feel pressured today.”
Gerrard admitted there was “a level between the teams” for most of the game as Villa camped in their own half.
Andy Roberston had two penalty calls overturned, while Emiliano Martinez saved the Scottish captain and Salah before the break.
Virgil van Dijk was then refused by Argentina’s number one after half-time.
Salah made another narrow effort moments later, but he finally made the difference for the game’s only goal in 67 minutes.
Tyrone Mings faced an awkward challenge against the Egyptian and on the third call Liverpool got his shot on goal.
Martinez gained a reputation as a penalty specialist, but Salah’s strike was too precise for the Villa stopper despite guessing the right path.
Getting behind Villa suddenly brought Villa to life as Gerrard introduced Danny Ings and Emiliano Buendia to offer a more offensive threat.
And they too had a big call for a late denied penalty when Alisson’s clearance attempt bounced off Matip towards his own goal and the Brazilian goalkeeper escaped a collision with Ings unpunished.
“For me there were two penalty incidents in the game. They have theirs, we don’t have ours, ”Gerrard said.
“You can get too excited against these teams too soon. The plan was to move on to the later stages and then bring more of our attackers onto the pitch.
“I hope I can be more daring and ambitious against these sides in the future.”