Liverpool spurned the opportunity to effectively secure a top-four finish and guarantee themselves Champions League football for next season by drawing 0-0 with relegation-threatened Stoke City on Saturday afternoon.
The Reds, who thrashed AS Roma 5-2 in their Champions League semi-final first leg on Tuesday night, failed to break down Paul Lambert’s side at Anfield.
It was Mohamed Salah who unexpectedly wasted the best opportunity to score early in the first half. The Egyptian forward, who has netted 43 goals in all competitions this season, looked certain to score after finding himself one-on-one with Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland but somehow missed the target from close range.
Saturday’s match felt like a case of after the Lord Mayor’s show for Liverpool, who head to Rome for their Champions League semi-final second leg on Wednesday, with the fans inside Anfield unusually quiet.
However, Jurgen Klopp still deployed a strong squad against the Potters, allowing the likes of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Jordan Henderson to play the full 90 minutes.
Despite their 0-0 draw, the Reds will finish the weekend third in the Premier League table on 72 points.
But fourth-placed Tottenham (68 points) and even fifth-placed Chelsea (63 points) might now fancy their chances of catching Klopp’s side.
THE KLOPP DECISION V STOKE THAT FRUSTRATED FANS
Liverpool fans were understandably frustrated with the performance – and although they all idolise Klopp, the German coach managed to irritate them by failing to bring the hugely talented Ben Woodburn off the substitutes’ bench.
The 18-year-old, who has represented Wales on seven occasions already but is yet to play a single minute of Premier League football this season, was left on the bench when the Reds were in desperate need of a goal.
I love Jürgen #Klopp more than most things in life but today's team selection was totally baffling and the performance was awful. Reminded me of end of the Houllier era, unable to break down a crap team's back 5. If tonight wasn't the moment for Woodburn, then when? #LFC
— Josh Kahn & Co. (@jsklfc) April 28, 2018
Klopp's treatment of Ben Woodburn is a disgrace, doesn't bring him on n doesn't use all d subs available. He's played more games 4 Wales than Liverpool! Time 2 move on like Harry Wilson or he'll never get a game n ruin his career!
— James Cleary (@Hillviewstiger) April 28, 2018
Fans on Twitter thought it was a huge waste and have been left wondering why Klopp wouldn’t give the lad a chance to shine.
You can understand their frustration.
Klopp's a coward for not using Woodburn
— A (@xyxsh2301) April 28, 2018
Klopp obviously doesn’t trust Ben Woodburn. Why the fuck would you not bring him on there, especially when Nathaniel Edwin fucking Clyne who shits himself when the ball goes near him in the final 3rd is getting brought on.
— Will🔴 (@Sumptuous_Salah) April 28, 2018
WHY WON’T KLOPP GIVE WOODBURN A CHANCE?
Woodburn, who Steven Gerrard named as captain of the Under-19 team for Liverpool’s UEFA Youth League campaign earlier this season, is one of the most talented young players at the club.
We’ve already seen that he’s capable of producing moments of magic, so why not throw him on for the final 10 minutes?
Okay, Woodburn is a kid but to send on Clyne, a RB, one that isn’t good going forward, over him when the team needed a goal is mental
— John O'Sullivan (@NotoriousJOS) April 28, 2018
What's the deal with Woodburn? If he's not good enough to impact our games, why wasn't he allowed to go on loan? Weird as fuck.
— Proteek (@proteeek) April 28, 2018
Instead, Klopp withdrew striker Danny Ings midway through the second half and sent on right-back Nathaniel Clyne in his place.
Woodburn and Dominic Solanke, who is still looking for his first league goal after joining Liverpool from Chelsea last summer, were both left on the bench.