By Mike Collett
LONDON (Reuters) – Juergen Klopp’s reign as Liverpool manager began with an exciting, end-to-end 0-0 draw against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Saturday that left the German satisfied with their performance and far clearer about the task ahead.
Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers this month with the ultimate aim of landing Liverpool’s first league title since 1990, and while his new team displayed signs of the high energy, high-pressing full-throttle footballing style he perfected at Borussia Dortmund, they lacked the guile to break down a resilient Spurs defence.
Klopp, the focus of intense media attention since his arrival in England with every move followed by a posse of photographers, gave his team a qualified thumbs-up.
“I am satisfied with the game, but after only three days there were not huge expectations. Spurs are a very strong and fine-tuned team and I knew it would be difficult,” he said.
“The start was brilliant, we surprised them a little bit, but the problem in the game was when we had the ball, we were not cool enough.
“We did not use our skills enough and were too hectic and eager, and we didn’t see the right options and we had our moments, but for today it was okay.”
Spurs also displayed the high-pressing game which their coach Mauricio Pochettino favours but the hosts failed to find a route to goal for the first time since a goalless draw with Everton in August.
In the end a draw against the red half of Merseyside was a fair reflection of the game.
Pochettino was asked if he thought Spurs should have won because of the number of chances they created.
“Of course, they only had one chance, we had four good chances in the first half, but I am very pleased with the players and their effort,” he replied.
“We are still a young team and we played very well.”
Spurs have now stretched their unbeaten run to eight league matches since the opening day while Liverpool have drawn six of their last seven in all competitions with Klopp now a little wiser about his new side.
Tottenham have 14 points from their nine games, a point clear of Liverpool in ninth.
Liverpool dominated the first 20 minutes until Spurs began to establish themselves and took charge for the rest of the first half.
Divock Origi had Liverpool’s best scoring chance in that opening spell when he headed against Hugo Lloris’s crossbar from inside the six-yard box in the 10th minute.
Yet even though Liverpool’s high-pressing game, epitomised by some marauding menace from German international Emre Can, penned Spurs back, their defence held firm.
Gradually Spurs gained a foothold in midfield with Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela seeing more of the ball.
With Clinton Njie, who replaced the injured Nacer Chadli after 11 minutes, having an increasing influence, Spurs looked the more dangerous side.
Njie forced Simon Mignolet into an excellent, full-stretch diving save after 28 minutes with a swerving shot then Harry Kane and Dele Alli forced Mignolet and defender Mamadou Sakho into two vital blocks in the 37th minute.
Njie went close again with a sizzling shot from 20 metres that hit the top of the net four minutes before the break.
There were fewer scoring chances in the second half, but the play was no less entertaining and while the hosts never found an opening, they at least ended Liverpool’s run of five successive league wins over them which included victories of 5-0 and 3-0 at White Hart Lane in the last two seasons.
(Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Toby Davis/Alan Baldwin)