By Andrew Cawthorne
LIVERPOOL – An ugly first-half altercation between Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp and his Arsenal counterpart Mikel Arteta fired up the home fans and players at Anfield on Saturday before a four-goal salvo sent the Londoners packing.
After a quiet first half an hour, Liverpool striker Sadio Mane’s aerial challenge on Arsenal defender Takehiro Tomiyasu saw the away side’s normally controlled Spanish manager rise in outrage.
That incensed the often passionate Klopp, who strode angrily towards Arteta as the fourth official came between them.
Both men raised their hands and shouted at each other as assistants restrained them. They even carried on chuntering in each other’s direction after referee Michael Oliver brandished yellow cards to both men.
The incident raised the noise levels at a packed Anfield and appeared to galvanise Liverpool, who stepped up their intensity levels and went on to score four goals with no reply in a sixth successive home Premier League defeat of Arsenal.
Klopp said he was incensed by the Arsenal bench’s targeting of Mane and compared it to the treatment of his striker by Atletico Madrid in this month’s Champions League game.
“It was absolutely no foul from Sadio. But the Arsenal bench was up like it was nearly a red card or whatever,” the German said.
“It was nothing, he didn’t even touch him. It was just two players going in the air, and then they (Arsenal’s bench) jump (up), and that was not ok, and that’s what I said.
“I’m really sick of that, everyone tries to go for Sadio in these moments … It’s just not right.”
‘PART OF THEHEAT‘
Klopp acknowledged, however, that he let his passions get the better of him.
“The ref did really well in that situation and I deserved the yellow card, it’s no problem at all,” he said.
“You can’t act like this, it just happened in the moment. I am very emotional on the sideline, but it doesn’t happen much any more that I have arguments on the sideline.”
Arteta would not be drawn afterwards, saying such incidents were part of the blood-and-thunder of football.
“He was trying to defend his side, I was trying to defend mine, that’s it,” he said, adding there was nothing more to say and “it doesn’t matter” what he thought of Mane at the time.
“I congratulated him (Klopp) for the game. For me, all these incidents stay there. They are part of the heat and the way we like to compete, and that’s it.”
Arteta said Arsenal, who are in fifth place, fought decently in the first half, when they were more compact and had a goal disallowed, but lost control completely in the second when Liverpool added three to their first half goal.
“We just crashed. We just threw it away in the first 15-20 minutes (of the second half) … and they punished us, and after that we lost control of the game, and they had all the momentum.
“I’ve seen the biggest teams in the world come to this ground and collapse. They were better than us for 96 minutes, and that’s the level. They’ve been together for six years and today you could see the difference.”
Klopp was thrilled by his team’s performance, which took them up to second spot in the standings, after their last Premier League game ended in defeat at West Ham United before most of his squad disappeared on international duty.
“The boys played damned good football,” he said.
“After halftime, we had a really impressive phase and controlled the game again. It was a mix of a very mature performance and very exciting – exciting goals, great counter-press, great high-press, and finishing situations off.”