Jurgen Klopp admitted he had to deliver a wake-up call to Liverpool before Mohamed Salah spared their blushes with a late penalty which rescued a 1-1 draw against struggling Fulham on Sunday.
Klopp’s side was punished for a sloppy first-half display at Craven Cottage when Bobby Decordova-Reid gave Fulham a shock lead.
But Salah rescued the Premier League champions after Aboubakar Kamara handled with 11 minutes left.
Liverpool remains in second place and sits behind leaders Tottenham on goal difference.
“If they had to wake up I don’t know, but I cannot write a book and throw it on the pitch for them to read. But I wanted us to shake up the game,” Klopp said.
“A good start is nice, but if you don’t have it then you start again. We had half an hour pretty much to get our feet in the game, and that’s why I shouted a bit at them.
“After that, it was better and the second half was good. They were fighting for the result but we had more situations after that and could have scored more.”
Crystal Palace’s late equaliser in their 1-1 draws against Tottenham just before Liverpool kicked off had given the Reds a chance to go top if they won in west London.
Instead, they will have to wait until Wednesday’s summit meeting with Tottenham at Anfield for their next chance to knock Jose Mourinho’s team out of pole position.
Liverpool is unbeaten in their last eight league games, but they were far from their fluent best and are winless in their past five away league matches.
“We deal with human beings and things like this can happen. When you look at the results from the teams who play in the Champions League or Europa League in the week, they had a tough weekend,” Klopp said.
“It was crazy, and maybe this was the weekend where we all felt it a little bit. But you have to fight against it, and that’s what the boys did. We move on. Tottenham is the next challenge.”
Adding to Klopp’s concerns, Joel Matip suffered a back injury that saw him join the long list of Liverpool injuries which already included his fellow center-backs Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.
Klopp’s pre-match admission that Diogo Jota will be sidelined for up to eight weeks with a knee injury leaves the Reds boss relying on Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane to lead the attack throughout the hectic Christmas and New Year period.
Fulham has just two wins in their last 11 games in all competitions, but this spirited effort showed Scott Parker’s fourth-bottom side is capable of avoiding relegation.
– Salah to the rescue –
Klopp had warned his players not to underestimate Fulham as they look ahead to the Tottenham game, but their erratic performance suggested they hadn’t been listening closely.
With coronavirus restrictions eased in London, it was the first time Fulham had been able to have fans in their stadium since last season’s promotion.
Ivan Cavaleiro almost gave those 2,000 supporters the perfect welcome back when his stinging strike was parried away by Liverpool keeper Alisson Becker in the fourth minute.
Cavaleiro threatened again when his well-timed run beat the Liverpool offside trap, but his low shot was superbly saved by Alisson.
Even Alisson had no answer when Fulham finally got the goal their dominance deserved in the 25th minute.
Salah surrendered possession after a shove on the Egyptian went unpunished on the edge of the Liverpool area.
Lookman clipped the ball through to Decordova-Reid and the winger smashed an unstoppable strike past Alisson into the far corner.
Liverpool dominated the closing stages and equalised in the 79th minute when Kamara blocked Georginio Wijnaldum’s free-kick with his arm.
Salah’s penalty wasn’t well struck, but it still crept under Alphonse Areola’s weak attempted to save for his 13th goal of the season.