Jurgen Klopp was unrepentant as a weakened Liverpool team suffered embarrassing Champions League defeat.
The Reds manager insisted: “I would do it again”, after watching his side produce a wretched performance to stumble to a 2-0 loss at the hands of a vibrant Atalanta side..without even recording a shot on target.
Klopp made five changes from the weekend, and had a clear plan to contain the Italians before sending on the cavalry for the final half hour in search of victory which would guarantee progress to the knock out stages.
But as his star quartet of Robertson, Firmino, Jota and Fabinho stood on the touchline stripped and ready to go on, Atalanta crafted a delicious opener.
It was a serious misfire for Klopp, but he responded defiantly.
“We made five changes – it didn’t work out and that’s part of the deal,” he said.
“Not good enough – if you don’t have a shot on target that is not a good sign. But I would do it again,” he said.
“When you make five changes and that gives you a problem with rhythm…unfortunately a second before we could change and bring players on, they scored the first one. So we just have to admit it was a deserved defeat.
“It doesn’t sound nice but it was the truth.”
The weakened team, with so many star names left on the bench, saw Liverpool fall to only their third defeat at Anfield in all competitions in 90 minutes in their last 90 games here.
But they barely troubled the Atalanta goal, and were made to pay before the cavalry could arrive, as the Italians exploited inexperienced weakness in the full back area.
Both goals came from good moves down their left hand side, with first Josip Ilicic converted a fine cross from Alejandro Gomez on the hour, before Gamez again showed his class with another good ball, that was headed down for Robin Gosens to superbly convert.
It means Klopp’’s plan failed painfully, and was perhaps too big a gamble to change the side so much.
Victory would have guaranteed qualification, and allowed the manager to rest his big name players.
Now they must defeat Ajax to go through.
Incredibly, the Reds didn’t even manage a shot on goal, with Mo Salah providing their only real moment of the game when he capitalised on a good move down the left, but sliced a right foot shot horribly over the bar.
The Italians were jubilant at the end, their manager Gian Piero Gasperini claimed it was the club’s greatest ever victory.
“This will be something that is written in the pages of our history,” he said.
“It’s just a shame there wasn’t a crowd present, this stadium is part of the history of football – and it’s a cruel twist of fate that our fans were not here to witness this.
“This was perhaps the biggest game in our history – certainly the most prestigious victory.”
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