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Long, cold wait turns Klopp against VAR

Herning (Denmark) (AFP) – Jurgen Klopp said his support for VAR is waning after a series of lengthy delays in Liverpool’s 1-1 Champions League draw away to Midtjylland on Wednesday.

Three times the game was interrupted in the second-half as the penalty that led to the Danish champions equaliser and a goal ruled out for either side were reviewed.

Klopp agreed with all three calls by the officials, but was concerned that the wait in cold conditions could have led to even more injury problems for his side.

“It just took too long,” said Klopp after eight minutes of stoppage time were added on at the end of the game. 

“The decisions were right but it was so difficult to make, it took three or four minutes and it was cold for the boys.

“It is really hard and I could hear people saying, ‘Oh my God’. It took really long and it was really cold, which doesn’t help.

“I used to be one of the people who said VAR is a good idea, I’m really not sure if I would say that again to be honest. But now we have it.”

Liverpool were already guaranteed top spot in Group D, allowing Klopp to make eight changes, but he did surprisingly start Mohamed Salah up front and Fabinho at centre-back despite his concerns over a gruelling December schedule.

– Salah surpasses Gerrard –

The decision to play Salah immediately paid off as the Egyptian seized upon a mishit backpass inside the first minute and slotted home his 22nd Champions League goal for Liverpool, to surpass Steven Gerrard as the club’s all-time top scorer in the competition.

“Absolutely exceptional player,” added Klopp. “Since we worked together obviously a lot of things clicked really for all of us. He helps the team massively and he knows and appreciates the help of the team as well.” 

However, the substitution of Fabinho at half-time to finally give the Brazilian a rest knocked the visitors off course as Midtjylland pounced on the indecision among a youthful Liverpool defence.

Klopp handed a debut to 18-year-old Billy Koumetio, who became Liverpool’s youngest player in the Champions League, alongside 19-year-old Rhys Williams in central defence.

Leighton Clarkson also made his debut in midfield, while Caoimhin Kelleher again deputised for the injured Alisson in goal.

Right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold captained his boyhood club for the first time at 22.

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing to have your first Champions League game but a career is all about how many you will have or how many games overall you will play,” said Klopp. “So the boys have a lot to learn.”

Midtjylland’s pressure was rewarded with a penalty after the first of a series of lengthy reviews.

Anders Dreyer was brought down by Kelleher as he bore down on goal, but had originally been ruled offside.

After reviewing the incident on the pitchside monitor French referee Francois Letexier pointed to the spot and Alexander Scholz drilled the spot-kick low beyond Kelleher.

The next VAR review went against the home side when Scholz’s fine finish from a narrow angle was ruled out for offside.

Kelleher was the hero in a 1-0 win over Ajax which secured qualification last week and was needed again when he parried Erik Sviatchenko’s header from a corner.

Klopp turned to the experience of Andy Robertson, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane after the break to restore some control and Henderson produced a last-ditch challenge to prevent Evander securing a famous win for Midtjylland.

But Liverpool could even have won the game late on when Takumi Minamino swept home from Mane’s knock down.

Minamino was initially given offside, but on review the goal was instead controversially ruled out for a handball by Mane.

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