Jurgen Klopp did not take the decision to award Everton a penalty in Sunday’s Merseyside derby particularly well. The German was petulant and spiky in his postmatch interviews after Wayne Rooney had taken full advantage of referee Craig Pawson’s generosity to steal a point for the Blues in a game in which they rarely ventured outside their own half.
Klopp was genuinely staggered at the number of journalists and pundits who felt the decision was correct and that Dejan Lovren had fouled Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin. It wasn’t a good look for the Liverpool boss but in the circumstances it was completely understandable and borne out of frustration.
It would have been interesting to see the media reaction had that decision been at the other end and involved, let’s say, Sadio Mane and Mason Holgate. It would be equally as fascinating to see the reaction of Liverpool fans had the “guilty party” not been the much maligned Lovren.
While you’d expect neutrals to say it was a penalty (there is always a desire to see big clubs come unstuck against plucky underdogs) it was surprising to hear so many Liverpool fans agree and condemn Lovren for his part in it. Even many of those that didn’t believe it was a penalty still blamed Lovren for “giving the referee a decision to make”.
Former Reds defender Jamie Carragher agreed it was a penalty and feels Lovren got too tight to the striker. That’s amusing because had that decision gone against Carragher in a derby game the referee in question would still be in hiding today.
How is the defender getting more criticism than the forward in this type of situation? We see it all the time these days; an attacker takes a dive over an outstretched leg and the defender is castigated for “giving him the chance to go down”.
When did we reach this point? Calvert-Lewin is praised for being “clever” while Lovren is seen as the fool who got played. Surely this is all backwards?
No wonder Klopp was so frustrated. Criticise Lovren for not cutting out the initial pass by all means, but blaming him for the penalty is unfair. Lovren was running alongside a striker who diverted his run away from the path of the ball and jumped directly into the Liverpool man before tumbling to the floor.
Lovren did not initiate any contact with Calvert-Lewin and there was little or nothing he could have done to avoid it. From the referee’s vantage point you can understand why a penalty was awarded and no blame should be apportioned to the official, but numerous replay angles showed the young Everton forward had duped him.
Unfortunately for the Croatian, he just doesn’t have enough credit in the bank with supporters to be given the benefit of the doubt even in situations as clear cut as this one. Had it been Joe Gomez on the receiving end of that decision the reaction would almost certainly have been more sympathetic.
Lovren has no wiggle room, though. Bad situations tend to follow him around so even on occasions when he’s actually done very little wrong, such as this one, fans are quick to apportion blame upon him.
Simon Mignolet and Alberto Moreno are in a similar situation. None of that trio have the trust of the supporters and any mistake is usually greeted with calls for them to be replaced.
Moreno has had a fine season but one poor performance in a 3-3 draw at Sevilla saw all the old criticism of him return. Mignolet too has done very little wrong this season (or indeed last term) yet he was blamed by many for conceding a fluke goal against Chelsea when Willian’s attempted cross looped over the Belgian’s head into the far corner.
Perception counts for an awful lot in football and it’s doubtful whether Lovren, Moreno and Mignolet will ever truly win over the majority of Liverpool supporters. In Lovren’s case he can have very few complaints as unlike Mignolet and Moreno several of his worst moments have been recent and there is no sign of improvement for him to point to.
Another factor is that Lovren really doesn’t help himself at times and he does not make for a sympathetic figure. The day before the derby he was mouthing off about being in the best form of his Liverpool career. Why would you tempt fate like that ahead of such a big game? It’s just asking for trouble. Even if you think that, keep it to yourself and let your performances speak for you.
Lovren is never going to win over the Liverpool support because he’s too prone to costly mistakes. Much of the criticism that comes his way is warranted and few would argue that he needs to be replaced sooner rather than later.