Liverpool, United Kingdom | AFP | Jurgen Klopp accepted his Liverpool side got “a bit lucky” after a controversial offside flag denied Fulham the lead in their 2-0 defeat at Anfield on Sunday.
Under-pressure Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic hit out at what he described as an “absurd” situation after Aleksandar Mitrovic appeared to have headed the bottom-of-the-table visitors into the lead five minutes before the break.
Celebrations were cut short by the offside flag, however, and a quick restart from Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson allowed Trent Alexander-Arnold to play in Mohamed Salah for his eighth goal of the season and his 34th in his last 36 games at Anfield.
Just 14 seconds separated the flag and the Liverpool opener and when Xherdan Shaqiri stretched the lead with a delightful volley eight minutes into the second half the game was beyond the visitors.
Klopp was unsure of whether the officials had been right to deny Fulham a goal but hailed the “brilliant” reaction of his Premier League title-chasers in turning the situation to their advantage.
“I saw it once, I’m not sure if it was offside or not,” said the Liverpool manager. “We didn’t get a goal against Arsenal when we scored a clearer goal. I don’t want to compare it but you cannot change it.
“The most important thing is reacting in a situation like that and that was brilliant. Ally, Trent, Mo and done, it was a fantastic situation.”
The German boss also felt Andy Robertson had been impeded in the run up to Fulham’s disallowed goal and it was the Scottish full-back who could have played Mitrovic onside.
“Good routine. At the end we were a bit lucky,” admitted Klopp.
– ‘Disrespect’ annoys Jokanovic –
For Jokanovic, there was no doubt that his side’s possible opening goal should have stood.
“Robertson didn’t sufficiently squeeze up and my player is onside and scored a goal. In one moment, a crucial moment, we go from one goal up to one goal down,” said Jokanovic.
“In this country you normally can’t show some disrespect to referees but it’s a problem (when they) show disrespect to my team, myself, and the Fulham supporters.
“The situation can be a little complicated but you must be sure to take this kind of decision.”
Jokanovic admitted his team could have reacted better to Liverpool’s swift break but said it shouldn’t have existed in the first place.
“We didn’t defend well this counter-attack but this counter-attack shouldn’t exist. It’s a completely absurd situation we have to defend.”
Liverpool had created several reasonable chances before the opening goal — Sadio Mane, Salah and the influential Shaqiri all going close — but Fulham had almost scored first when Ryan Sessegnon capitalised on Joe Gomez’s mistake to close in on goal only to drag his shot wide.
Klopp’s men went to the top of the Premier League, albeit they might be there for just a matter of hours depending on the results of matches involving champions Manchester City and Chelsea later Sunday.
He was happy enough with Liverpool’s display, even though they were still far from their fluent best.
“They played football but a lot of long balls and Mitrovic did outstandingly well in these situations,” said Klopp. “So that was tricky but apart from that I thought the boys did really well.
“We created, we passed, we accelerated in the right moments and had big chances early with Sadio, with Shaq, with Mo in the box, when they blocked it last second, when the goalkeeper could make a save.
“Apart from scoring more goals, it was a really good performance.”