Jurgen Klopp dismisses Liverpool 'nerves' after reclaiming top spot with win at Fulham
Liverpool needed a late James Milner penalty to see off 19th-placed Fulham at Craven Cottage
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insisted he has "no doubts about my players' nerves" after a narrow win at Fulham sent his team back to the top of the Premier League table on Sunday.
In-form Senegalese forward Sadio Mane scored Liverpool's first goal and played a crucial part in the second in a scrappy 2-1 win at Craven Cottage to move above Manchester City by two points, with the defending champions in FA Cup action on Saturday.
It had looked like being a frustrating day for Liverpool after Mane's opener was cancelled out by former Reds player Ryan Babel, but substitute James Milner slotted home an 81st-minute penalty to take the points.
Liverpool have 76 points from 31 games, while Fulham have 17 points and have a mountain to climb if they are to avoid almost certain relegation from the top flight.
It was not the most convincing win of Liverpool's season, but Klopp was convinced the nature of the victory was not down to nervousness.
"We started really well, and did a lot of good things but lost the rhythm a bit," the German said. "First half a bit rusty. Second half we could have finished it off and then it is clear at 1-0 if you don't kill it off that can happen. Babel was there that is how football is. They deserved a goal but we deserved three points. A brilliant afternoon I have to say.
"I am not in any doubt about my players nerves. It is about intensity. We go for perfection but it is rare that you get it. People will say we need to be more convincing, but we are at the start of a development, not the end."
Mane scored his ninth league goal in as many games when he fired the visitors into a 26th-minute lead with a classy finish which typified Liverpool's attacking mentality under Klopp.
A calamitous Virgil Van Dijk error gifted Fulham a 74th-minute equaliser, as his poor header back to keeper Alisson Becker was intercepted by Babel who stroked the ball into an empty net.
Another howler, this time by Rico, decided the contest as the keeper spilled a tame Mohamed Salah shot and then hauled down Mane who pounced on the rebound, leaving Milner to stroke home the winner from the spot.
"That was typical for our season - the effort was there for 90 minutes but you need a bit of luck and a little bit of intelligence," Babel told Sky Sports.
"In team sports sometimes you make mistakes and that happens but a squad like Liverpool will finish it off."
Published: March 17, 2019 09:01 PM