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segunda-feira, 17 de outubro de 2016
Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United the verdict: Frustration the overriding emotion for Klopp's Reds as Mourinho spoils party
James Pearce reflects on a night of 'classic Mourinho' and far from classic football
A sense of anti-climax hung over Anfield at the final whistle.
After all the hype, all the expectation, the occasion fell decidedly flat.
The logo on Liverpool's shirts read 'Seeing is Believing' but there was nothing here that will live long in the memory.
Frustration was the overriding emotion for Jurgen Klopp's men after they failed to find a way past Manchester United.
Once again Jose Mourinho was basking in the glory of being the party pooper in L4 as for only the second time in the Premier League era English football's arch rivals fought out a drab goalless stalemate.
Having already seen Liverpool swat aside Arsenal and Chelsea this term, the sense of disappointment at the final whistle was understandable.
Kopites wanted United to feel the full force of their resurgence under Klopp and for the Reds to prove they are genuine title contenders.
A run of five straight wins in all competitions ground to a halt as the goals dried up. Liverpool's late surge was in vain as they were ultimately left to rue their sluggish first-half performance.
It was undoubtedly an opportunity missed. However, when the dust has settled this result should do little to burst the bubble of optimism which has grown steadily over the past two months.
The fact is that Liverpool sit just two points behind leaders Manchester City having endured a more difficult start to the campaign than any of their rivals.
A first league clean sheet of the season should also be a source of pride as Klopp seeks to address an area of weakness.
United celebrated like they had won the game but the reality is that they couldn't beat a below-par Liverpool and ended up holding on grimly for a share of the spoils. You don't get much for £165million these days.
Klopp's men were expected to fly out the traps in a bid to do to United what they had done to both Leicester and Hull on home turf so far this term.
But it simply didn't happen. Rather than be energised by the electric atmosphere and stamp their authority on the contest from the start, Liverpool looked like a team wracked by nerves and anxiety.
Maybe by showing a modicum of ambition Mourinho caught the hosts by surprise.
United didn't simply 'park the bus' and in fact they produced the greater threat during a frenetic but horribly scrappy opening 45 minutes.
Anfield let out a collective roar when Philippe Coutinho shut down Antonio Valencia and expertly won the ball back early on. But around the tireless little Brazilian there was far too much mediocrity.
Liverpool gave United a helping hand with a string of careless errors as possession was repeatedly tossed away cheaply.
How the Reds missed the energy of Adam Lallana, who was only fit enough for a second-half cameo, and the composure of Gini Wijnaldum.
Their absence from the starting line up handed opportunities to Daniel Sturridge and Emre Can but both replacements were well off the pace. This was Can's first Premier League start of the season and it showed as the German's touch regularly let him down.
Sturridge was starved of decent service but he was far too static and when he was picked out he failed to test David de Gea.
The result of the enforced changes was that the Reds were disjointed with little fluency to their play.
United got around Liverpool's pressing by hitting long diagonal balls forward with Zlatan Ibrahimovic dropping off into space to influence proceedings, while Marcus Rashford's pace down the right was a source of concern.
Both Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba peppered fans in the Kop with wayward long-range strikes before Joel Matip expertly blocked a Pogba piledrive.
Klopp couldn't hide his disdain for what he was witnessing. He raged at the fourth official, referee Anthony Taylor and any Liverpool player who came within earshot.
At one stage he was five yards outside his technical area desperately trying to get orders across. Belatedly, Liverpool began to click into gear with Coutinho starting to pull the strings.
De Gea was finally forced into action when Firmino connected with Henderson's cross but his header was tame.
It was the biggest night of Loris Karius' career after he was once again preferred to Simon Mignolet.
The young German keeper did well to push Rashford's dangerous low cross to safety but then flapped at Ashley Young's delivery. He was lucky that Ibrahimovic was penalised for a shove on Dejan Lovren.
Much had been made about the appointment of Greater Manchester-based Taylor for this fixture but neither team could point an accusing finger in his direction.
At Swansea a fortnight earlier a half-time rollicking from Klopp triggered a major second-half transformation. But when battle resumed at Anfield they continued to struggle.
Karius' ability with the ball at his feet is supposed to be the one big advantage that he has over Mignolet but he's kept that talent well hidden during the early stages of his Reds career.
The summer signing from Mainz breathed another sigh of relief after United failed to punish his wayward pass for Lovren which was seized upon by Pogba.
United were wasteful with Ibrahimovic nodding harmlessly back across goal when he looked set to put away Pogba's inviting cross.
Can forced a smart low save from De Gea but with Liverpool still spluttering urgent action was required and on the hour Klopp summoned Lallana with the ineffective Sturridge making way.
Lallana has arguably been the Reds' outstanding performer so far this term and his importance to this side was once again reinforced.
His introduction instantly improved Liverpool, who looked more potent with Firmino in the No 9 role vacated by Sturridge.
Lallana lashed high and wide as the Reds cranked up the pressure and enjoyed their best spell of the night.
Coutinho thought he had broken the deadlock with a curling 30-yarder but somehow De Gea denied him with a stunning finger-tip save.
The little Brazilian's flick then released Firmino, who was thwarted by a last-ditch sliding challenge by Antonio Valencia just before he could pull the trigger.
Divock Origi and Alberto Moreno came on for the shattered Firmino and Milner as Klopp demanded one final push and United merely sought to waste time and run down the clock.
It was classic Mourinho. This was far from vintage Liverpool under Klopp but no harm was done.