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ONLY Roberto De Zerbi knows what Jurgen Klopp whispered to him as he was bear–hugged by the German.

The exchange may only have been the usual touchline pre–match sweet nothings although it went on far longer than the norm.

But it could also have been Klopp saying he could count on his recommendation if he wants the position that will become vacant this summer.

Either way De Zerbi, thanks to the brilliant 87th second strike by Danny Welbeck that set this enthralling clash alight, did himself no harm at all if indeed he does want one of the biggest jobs in world when Klopp leaves.

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In the end Klopp’s machine, as has so often been the case this season, got going on full power again after a stuttering start.

Luis Diaz and the marvellous Mo Salah saw to that with the goals that won the game and kept their team’s title bid flying.

But this was a close–run thing as Klopp knew, just as his potential successor did, too, in what was his first interview in front of The Kop following the news that top candidate Xabi Alonso won’t be leaving Bayer Leverkusen to take over.

He’s sure to be given another, proper one too by CEO Michael Edwards and sporting director Richard Hughes now that the head – hunters have been forced to spread their net with Sporting’s Ruben Amorim also well in the frame

The Seagulls were downed in the end but De Zerbi could hardly have asked for a better start to his audition.

Although he isn’t the only coach to have worked out this season that Liverpool can be got at early in games.

The right flank, whether Trent Alexander-Arnold or currently Conor Bradley are playing full-back, is a place for plunder as Simon Adingra proved once again.

Bradley, 20, deputising in the long-term injury absence of Alexander-Arnold, found himself stranded up-field as the winger motored into space.

His low cross could have been swept away by Dominik Szoboszlai but the £60m Hungarian shanked only towards Virgil van Dijk and his attempted clearance spun into Welbeck’s path.

Sixteen yards out and on his 100th Premier League appearance for the Seagulls reacted in some style, powering his right footer beyond Caoimhin Kelleher.

Klopp, having gone into the game talking up De Zerbi as a “top coach” stood bemused on the touchline.

The goal was a complete mess from Liverpool’s point of view and things didn’t get better for quite a while.

Young Bradley, always encouraged to get forwards as Alexander-Arnold has been, was AWOL again as Adingra looked headed off down the wing again.

That 14th minute attack was ended by Alexis Mac Allister’s shove and a yellow card that followed.

Klopp’s side had been frantically pouring forward, for the sixth Premier League game of the season, looking to save themselves from themselves.

Five times they had come back to win after going behind and now they have retrieved a total of 26 points from losing positions.

But De Zerbi and his determined players made this fight back one of the toughest all the way to the end.

The fact that Klopp’s players were able to celebrate come the final whistle was once again mainly down to Salah as has so often been the case.

It was he who of all people, in the 27th minute, rose high and courageously to head into the box.

Diaz got on the end of it, hooking high into the net although a long VAR wait followed.

But Liverpool got lucky for while the Colombian attacker looked offside, the ball had been played on by defender Joel Veltman’s poor attempt to belt clear.

For a spell now Liverpool were in control and Alexis Mac Allister was pulling the strings.

Indeed this was probably his best performance in a red shirt since last summer’s departure from Brighton.

De Zerbi has always said he was a big miss, and the World Cup winner’s display only underlined how good an attacking midfielder he is.

At no time more so than in the 65th minute when he accepted a pass from Bradley then delivered the perfect pass to Salah.

The Kop’s Egyptian king tried with ten shots, no less, to hit the net in the first half but missed with all of them.

This time there was no mistake as he delivered with the signature left-footed strike that made him the first player in the Prem era to reach double figures for both goals and assists in three consecutive campaigns.

Diaz thought he had notched a second soon after but VAR spotted he was offside by the length of his right big toe.

That let-off only ramped up the nerves around most of Anfield, De Zerbi’s men continuing to threaten on the break.

And helping prove that in the Italian, those Kop head-hunters should very much have him in for meaningful discussions once this campaign is over.

 

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