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Jurgen Klopp could barely contain his relief after watching his Liverpool side prove the doubters wrong against RB Leipzig.
On a run of three straight defeats, pressure had been building upon the German, despite baseless social media rumours proving way wide of the mark.
“You can’t build mentality giants in one game – tonight we were good and we deserved to win but it’s only the first leg,” he told BT Sport after the 2-0 win. “A lot of people were waiting for us to slip again and tonight we didn’t. I’m really happy.”
Goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane mean the Reds have one foot in the last-eight of the Champions League, providing a major boost in what has been a difficult few weeks.
It was a performance that encompassed all of what makes Liverpool brilliant under Klopp. Pressing their opponents into submission while still displaying that clinical touch on the counter-attack.
The result was also one based on defensive solidity. After weeks of turmoil at the back, the champions finally registered a clean sheet, their first since Fabinho’s injury last month.
Liverpool have been forced into countless combinations at the heart of defence, with injuries ravaging and derailing their hopes of retaining the Premier League title.
Midfielder Fabinho has spent much of the season at the back, while Jordan Henderson has made the move to defence in recent weeks.
And in absence of the Brazilian, Henderson, alongside January signing Ozan Kabak, showed very early signs that they could be a pair moving forward.
Henderson’s ability on the ball was clear to see, completing 90 passes, more than any other player on show in Budapest. That helped to start countless attacks for Klopp’s men, with the Reds boss suggesting his captain performed the job ‘perfectly’.
“Very happy with his performance. And Hendo can play the position perfectly,” he said.
Fabinho is expected to return to fitness in the coming days, which will leave Klopp with a difficult decision to make for the shape of his team going forward.
Liverpool have clearly been impacted by losing the two midfielders in their usual role and to add one back in will provide an instant boost.
Which one returns to the middle of the park remains to be seen, with both displaying their aptitude for defensive work.
For the first time in a number of weeks, it’s the kind of selection headache that Klopp will be looking forward to.
This content was originally published here.