Jurgen Klopp compares Liverpool’s kids’ impact to ‘darts sensation’ Luke Littler

By Sports Desk February 28, 2024

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp likened the instant impact of his academy players to that of darts player Luke Littler last month – but then asked for the youngsters to be given time to find their feet.

Jayden Danns scored his first two goals in only his third appearance after fellow 18-year-old Lewis Koumas had opened the scoring on debut as Southampton were beaten 3-0 to set up an FA Cup quarter-final at Manchester United.

As sons of former Premier League players Neil Danns, the ex-Crystal Palace midfielder, and Jason Koumas, who played for West Brom, the pair will have a lot of experience to call on but Klopp said they should be allowed to do that out of the spotlight.

Referencing Littler, who reached the World Darts Championship final at the age of 16, the German asked for perspective despite the youngsters’ key roles in a depleted side.

“It is little bit like the new darts sensation, it is fine for tonight. Tomorrow, leave the boys in the corner,” Klopp said.

“Everyone who is with us, we should have our moments, they will have more moments than we expect.

“All of it was obviously incredibly important. Against a Southampton team we would have had problems with anyway but in our situation we tried to give as much information as possible to them and we had to improve during the game.

“The first 15 minutes we were all over the place; we tried to press but the timing was horrendous and Southampton used that.

“We found a way into the game and the goal we scored was in a nearly perfect moment, it felt like a momentum change and then an exceptional finish from Lewis.

“We now had the momentum rather than Southampton and won a lot of high balls and scored, the play was special, the way we won the balls was special and something like that, as impossible as it seems, can happen.

“Maybe the people (fans) don’t forget it when the transfer window opens, don’t close the door (on young players) with 12 signings.”

On Danns, who came off the bench to score twice in 15 minutes to earn the man-of-the-match award, Klopp added: “Exceptional talent. Of course it is not natural that a boy 18, is as calm as you like. The second goal calm as you like.”

Saints boss Russell Martin was left to rue several missed chances in the opening 30 minutes in particular.

“I don’t think 3-0 is a fair reflection of the game as we should have been one or two up before they got close to a goal,” he said.

“The difference in the game is the quality of the finishing and their goalkeeper making some brilliant saves.

“If we are ever going to lose, then let’s do it being the team we want to be and I can’t ask any more from them tonight.

“I really enjoyed watching my team but I am really hurt for them and the result as I didn’t think we deserved that.”

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  • How Atalanta’s Anfield humbling compares in Jurgen Klopp’s tenure at Liverpool How Atalanta’s Anfield humbling compares in Jurgen Klopp’s tenure at Liverpool

    Jurgen Klopp was left to reflect on “a low point” for Liverpool after Atalanta inflicted one of the heaviest defeats of his reign in Thursday’s Europa League clash.

    Here, the PA news agency looks at how the Serie A side’s 3-0 romp compares to Klopp’s worst games with the club.

    Low point

    Gianluca Scamacca’s double and Mario Pasalic’s late strike gave Atalanta a 3-0 win in the first leg of their quarter-final, denting Klopp’s bid to add an eighth different trophy to his Anfield honours roll and end his reign with a showpiece final in Dublin.

    Only Manchester City and Aston Villa have ever enjoyed bigger winning margins against Klopp’s Liverpool, across his 483 games since taking charge in October 2015.

    City beat their perennial title rivals 5-0 on the way to the 2017-18 crown, Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane scoring twice apiece, and then 4-0 in a futile attempt to stop Klopp’s men romping to their Covid-delayed 2019-20 win.

    Villa beat a much-changed Liverpool side 5-0 in the Carabao Cup in December 2019 – a defence of Ki-Jana Hoever, Tony Gallacher, Sepp van den Berg and Morgan Boyes powerless to prevent Jonathan Kodjia scoring his only two goals of that season.

    More memorably, Ollie Watkins’ hat-trick and a Jack Grealish brace set up a 7-2 league triumph against Klopp’s defending champions in October 2020.

    Anfield nightmare

    The common thread between those four hammerings is that they all took place away from Anfield, meaning Gian Piero Gasperini’s side inflicted a record-equalling home defeat on Klopp with Liverpool.

    It is the 11th time his side have lost by three goals – a sixth 3-0, to go with four 4-1s and a 5-2 – but only the third at home.

    City triumphed 4-1 in 2021, Ilkay Gundogan scoring twice, while last season’s Champions League challenge was effectively ended by that 5-2 defeat in the first leg of their last-16 tie against Real Madrid. Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah gave Liverpool an early 2-0 lead but Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema scored twice apiece in Real’s emphatic comeback.

    City are also among the teams to inflict three-goal away defeats on Klopp’s side, a list that curiously includes Watford on two separate occasions along with Tottenham, Brighton and Wolves in the Premier League and Barcelona and Napoli in the Champions League.

    Liverpool’s heaviest ever home defeat is only 6-0, against Sunderland in the First Division in April 1930.

  • Michael Van Gerwen ends Luke Littler’s Premier League winning run Michael Van Gerwen ends Luke Littler’s Premier League winning run

    Michael Van Gerwen ended Luke Littler’s Premier League winning run to claim victory on night 11 in Birmingham.

    Littler had been targeting a third consecutive nightly victory following back-to-back successes in Belfast and Manchester, which put him top of the table.

    The 17-year-old had looked to be building up another head of steam after earlier edging out Rob Cross in a last-leg decider and then holding off a stirring fightback from world champion Luke Humphries to win their latest epic tussle 6-5 – landing five maximums with a match-average of just over 107.

    Dutchman Van Gerwen, though, capitalised on a low-key start to the final, before eventually breaking twice to close out a 6-3 win and rekindle his own play-off ambitions.

    Van Gerwen, the defending Premier League champion, had avoided another early exit after coming from behind to beat Nathan Aspinall in his first match and then eased past Michael Smith 6-4.

    Littler remains top of the table with 26 points, two clear of Humphries, while Van Gerwen sits third on 22 and Aspinall fourth.

    Van Gerwen hopes he can now head into night 12 in Rotterdam with renewed confidence.

    “I have made it hard for myself to be fair,” the Dutchman said on Sky Sports, “But more importantly it is about how you bounce back.

    “I know the last few weeks have not been great for me, but to come back with a win tonight feels good for me.”

    Van Gerwen added: “I had to go really deep tonight and at the end, Luke and I neither really played our A-game, but when you win nights like this, it is not always about who is playing well – sometimes it is who can handle it.

    “I had a struggling few weeks, but to bounce back with a win like this gives me confidence of course.

    “People will write you off when you off when you lose, that is how things go, but I believed in my own opportunities and you need to make sure you keep your mind focused.

    “I know there is more to come – the fighting spirit in my body is still there. I need to make sure I am good for next week.”

    In the night’s opening quarter-final at the Utilita Arena, Humphries – who enjoyed European Tour success at the recent German Darts Grand Prix in Munich – came from 4-1 down to claim five straight legs and beat Peter Wright, who remains cut adrift at the bottom of the table.

    Littler had been trailing 3-1 and then survived a match dart as he eventually battled past Cross, before former world champion Smith put last week’s defeat by Gerwyn Price behind him with a 6-3 win over the Welshman.

    Van Gerwen landed an impressive 152 checkout as he came from 4-2 behind to take control of his quarter-final against Aspinall, going on to close out a much-needed 6-4 win.

  • Unai Emery: Plenty of work for Aston Villa to do in second leg Unai Emery: Plenty of work for Aston Villa to do in second leg

    Aston Villa boss Unai Emery knows his side have plenty of work to do in next week’s Europa Conference League quarter-final second leg in Lille.

    Villa will travel to France with a 2-1 advantage thanks to first-leg goals from Ollie Watkins and John McGinn gave the on-looking Prince of Wales something to cheer about.

    But Lille showed they are no pushovers and Bafode Diakite’s late header kept the tie alive after they had been repelled by an impressive performance from Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

    Villa must now go to northern France next week and finish the job if they are to make their first European semi-final since they won the European Cup in 1982.

    That will not be an easy task as the French football federation have postponed Lille’s Ligue 1 game this weekend to give them extra time to prepare and they have only been beaten once at home all season.

    Emery, who celebrated his 1,000th game as a manager, said: “Difficult match, we are ready to play another 90 minutes, we played the first 90 minutes, we didn’t control the game like we wanted and defensively we were doing more work than we prepared for because we wanted to control the game with our positioning.

    “With the respect we have got for them, they showed it.

    “The result is tight, but more or less it was a fine for both teams. Now another 90 minutes, enjoy playing in Europe, enjoy playing a quarter-final.

    “Be ready to play 90 minutes, even extra time, even a penalty shootout because now it is in this moment everything is difficult.”

    Lille boss Paulo Fonseca, who almost took over at Newcastle and Tottenham in the last few years, felt Watkins’ goal should have been disallowed for a foul by Morgan Rogers on Ismally.

    “I don’t understand what is going on, it was a foul on the first goal,” he said.

    “I understand it is difficult for the referee with VAR it is just incredible they miss these things. It’s not good what is going on in football, the referees must look at what is going on in the moment.

    “A lot of matches, it is not football, it is blocking like in basketball. The first goal was a clear foul, a clear block. Being physical is one thing, fouling is another.”

    However, after the way they created chances at Villa Park, Fonseca knows the tie is very much alive.

    “We created the opportunity to get a better result,” he added. “I’m satisfied with the courage of my players but at the end of the day, we’ve lost.

    “I know that it’s difficult match, they’ve got great players, a great coach and a lot of experience so they have certain advantages but I must continue to believe it’s possible.”

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