Jurgen Klopp insisted he will never compare himself to legendary former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly after the Reds bounced back to beat Bournemouth 2-1 and move within three wins of ending a 30-year wait for the Premier League title.
A 22nd consecutive home league win broke the English top flight record set by Shankly’s Liverpool in 1972 and settled any nerves over the title race after a run of three defeats in four games in all competitions.
Callum Wilson’s controversial early opener sent shockwaves around Anfield. However, the prolific duo of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane quickly turned the game around to open a 25-point lead at the top of the table.
“We will never compare with this fella,” said Klopp on beating Shankly’s record. “It’s great. We didn’t think about the number before the game but after we can. It’s nice, it’s special, but today is a very good example, we have to fight hard.
“We are not geniuses, but we can really fight and that’s all we have to do until the end of the season and see what we get from it.”
The spread of coronavirus could have a big impact on the Reds’ title celebrations in the weeks to come with the possibility of games being played behind closed doors. But the abandonment of the normal pre-match ritual of handshakes was the only disruption to the Premier League calendar this weekend.
Liverpool’s dip in form has coincided with a lack of clean sheets for Klopp’s men after a run of 10 in 11 league games between early December and mid-February.
The hosts’ backline was breached again after just nine minutes, although Klopp was rightly furious that VAR did not intervene to disallow the goal.
Joe Gomez was knocked off balance by Wilson to start the move and the Bournemouth striker then had the simple task of tapping home Jefferson Lerma’s cross.
“From my point of view it’s 100 percent a foul. It shows the problem with VAR. It’s not clear and obvious, I don’t know how that’s possible,” added Klopp.
Defeat leaves the Cherries still in the bottom three and they were left to rue not making even more of a bright start as Liverpool’s stand-in goalkeeper Adrian turned over Nathan Ake’s powerful header.
Bournemouth played a large part in their own downfall and settled Liverpool’s nerves when substitute Jack Simpson gifted possession to Mane in a dangerous position. Despite a poor pass from the Senegalese, Salah steered the ball into the bottom corner to mark his 100th Premier League appearance for the club in style.
Eight minutes later, Liverpool led when Bournemouth again gave the ball away cheaply. Virgil van Dijk released Mane in behind and he kept his cool to slot into the far corner.
“The two goals come from us having possession and they punished us on the transition,” said Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe. “It was a ruthless game for us today because I don’t think we did much wrong in the game.”
The champions-elect still needed a brilliant clearance from James Milner to secure all three points as he sprinted back to clear Ryan Fraser’s lob over the stranded Adrian on the hour mark, which earned him man-of-the-match.
“Millie changed the fortunes, hopefully,” said Klopp, whose side could even be crowned champions before they play in the league again if Manchester City were to lose against Manchester United, Arsenal and Burnley in the next week.