Dream to watch, nightmare for Klopp: Neil Humphreys
No one entertains like the Reds, but they must settle defence
Juergen Klopp was wrong. He referred to the three points as "dirty" when they were, in fact, most delightful.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, unless the beholder happens to be a bleary-eyed viewer watching Liverpool treat the Champions League like a chaotic experiment.
They'll score a couple. They'll throw in a couple. They'll surge in waves up front. They'll drown at the back. They could win the jug-eared trophy. They could go out in the knockout stages.
But are we not entertained? Who else swaggers around a pitch with such insouciance in attack and such incompetence in defence? No other side currently holds our attention quite like the Reds, with their unique mix of the sublime and the silly.
A dream to watch on TV, a nightmare to manage on the touchline, Liverpool are a winning contradiction at the moment, a mish-mash of erratic behaviour summed up by Naby Keita.
The Guinean lashed in a stunning volley at one end in the 3-2 win over Atletico Madrid yesterday morning (Singapore time) and did utterly nothing at the other, ensuring his own substitution at half-time.
He was easily beaten for the second Atletico goal and went missing for the first, essentially epitomising his teammates.
Klopp saw it first, recognising the danger early despite the two-goal advantage. Atletico had found that hole, the one behind Keita, the one that still concerns England boss Gareth Southgate, the one beside Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Liverpool's polarising paradox is destined to remain a topic of conversation long after his retirement. Was he the most gifted footballing defender in the club's history? Was he the most unreliable defender in his own back four?
Even Klopp hasn't entirely decided, occasionally going with other options in tense Champions League contests. He may do so again. Alexander-Arnold got the nod in Madrid, but the right-back was soon identified as the weak link.
Klopp raged at the gaps being exploited by Joao Felix and Thomas Lemar. The Liverpool manager demanded cohesion and tighter marking. He rarely got either. Atletico's route to goal was nearly always along Alexander-Arnold's flank.
On the halfway line, with the ball at his feet, eyeing a pass, the 23-year-old's distribution feels like a mobile art installation. Against Atletico, his defending felt like a liability.
Virgil van Dijk also struggled. Before the game, he admitted that there was still room for improvement. After a lengthy anterior cruciate ligament injury, the rustiness remained. He lost Antoine Griezmann for the second goal, missing the Frenchman's run altogether.
Only the face, chest and general heroics of Alisson guaranteed victory - not an unusual occurrence for Liverpool in both Europe and the English Premier League. Conceding six goals in eight league games is hardly disastrous, but they hint at the defensive frailties exposed in Madrid.
Maybe they do not matter. Liverpool dominated possession. The Reds are five points clear in their group.
Mohamed Salah scored in his ninth consecutive game, one that included five goals, great saves, a red card, a dramatic penalty and a style of play closer to ping-pong than gegenpressing.
Klopp suggested that "dirty points" are often more important, as if the victory required a grubby asterisk for being a grind, instead of satisfying the lofty ideals of a dull purist.
But in stark contrast to other, far dirtier elements that have tarnished the game in the last week or so, this felt like good, clean fun, a reminder that football isn't to be endlessly dissected at touch screens. It can - and should - be a joyously daft five-goal thriller, too.
Klopp knows his back four require further tweaking ahead of Atletico's visit to Anfield on Nov 3. The defence may cause him sleepless nights.
But for the rest of us, Liverpool are the one team worth staying awake for.