Woeful Liverpool display leaves Jurgen Klopp's farewell tour in tatters, writes WILL PICKWORTH… as Reds' defensive frailties are exposed by impressive Atalanta on grim night
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Woeful Liverpool display leaves Jurgen Klopp's farewell tour in tatters, writes WILL PICKWORTH… as Reds' defensive frailties are exposed by impressive Atalanta on grim night

Apr 16, 2024

It had all looked set to end so perfectly. 

Ever since Jurgen Klopp announced his shock decision to leave Liverpool after nine glittering and transformative years, Reds supporters had penned Wednesday, May 22 in their diary.

For that is the date of the Europa League final in Dublin, a city with significant cultural and emotional ties to Liverpool.

The memory of Klopp lifting up the only trophy he is yet to win in his final game in charge, before heading off into the sunset is the sort of thing dreams are made of.

Yet, after an error-strewn night at Anfield, Klopp’s hopes of a perfect farewell are hanging by a thread following a dismal 3-0 defeat by Atalanta in their Europa League quarter-final first leg.

Liverpool put in a dreadful display against Atalanta their Europa League quarter-final first leg

The Reds were beaten 3-0 after putting in their worst performance of the season at Anfield

But Atalanta were brilliant and deserve huge credit for securing a major shock on Thursday

Liverpool put in their worst performance of the season to leave themselves with a mammoth task in Bergamo next week as their unbeaten home streak stretching back to February 2023 came to an end. 

‘A really bad game, oh my God,’ Klopp bemoaned post-match. ‘We lost the plot a bit, we were everywhere and nowhere.

‘Unfortunately there is nothing really positive to say about the game. I didn’t like our tactical positioning in possession. 

‘We scored one that was offside but it was a bad game from us. Atalanta had a good game, scored three goals and deserved to win. 

‘The lads must go home and sleep badly.’

Klopp – whose side were overwhelming favourites for the Europa League before Thursday – could have no complaints, with his side out-thought and second best to Atalanta, as their defensive frailties were brutally exposed.

Gianluca Scamacca found himself in acres of space for his two goals – although Caoimhin Kelleher allowed the first to go through his hands – before an awful error by Dominik Szoboszlai led to a potentially pivotal third in the tie from Mario Pasalic.

But it could have been worse. Despite Kelleher’s mistake, the Irishman made three brilliant stops after Atalanta had cut Liverpool open.

The Reds’ faltering defence has now shipped 11 goals in their past five games, while they have failed to keep a clean sheet in nine.

In the aftermath of the Liverpool’s memorable Carabao Cup win in February, there was a genuine hope Klopp could end his time at Anfield with a quadruple.

But after crashing out the FA Cup following a 4-3 defeat by Man United, and at a time where Arsenal have conceded just once in their past five league games, Liverpool’s defensive shortcomings could derail their pursuit of silverware elsewhere.

Virgil van Dijk, who was surprisingly off-colour on this grim night for the Reds, admitted as such, but insisted Klopp’s side won’t dwell on this display.

‘Obviously it’s not great and a very, very disappointing evening,’ he reflected. ‘There were too many individual mistakes and we got punished for it. 

‘The spaces were open and they punished us immediately. But we need everyone to look forward to another big game.  

‘It hurts. But it can’t put us down. We have to react pretty quickly.’

Yet, for all of Liverpool’s shortcomings, Atalanta and Gian Piero Gasperini deserve enormous credit for a brilliant display. 

Klopp’s hopes of a perfect farewell at the Europa League final in Dublin are hanging by a thread

Liverpool’s defensive deficiencies came to the fore and could cost them in the Premier League

The Italians carved Liverpool open time-and-time again, shrugging off their indifferent league form to cause one of the shocks of the season.

West Ham fans might have been wondering just where this version of Scamacca was during his failed stint in east London, but he was symptomatic of strong displays all over the park, with former Chelsea defender Davide Zappacosta a menace on the right.

Although Mohamed Salah had a second half goal disallowed for offside, Atalanta seemed to grow stronger in defence as the game went on, with Juan Musso enjoying a surprisingly quiet night.

But, as we’ve seen over Klopp’s nine years in charge, you would be a fool to write off Liverpool next week, although the German will have to magic up one of his greatest comebacks yet if he is to have that special night in Dublin come May.

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