Premier League – Anfield – Saturday 6th February 2016
Goals: Firmino (59), Lallana (69); Johnson (82), Defoe (89)
The surprise breaking news prior to kick-off was that Jurgen Klopp would not be present at Anfield, with the German suffering from appendicitis.
Daniel Sturridge returned to the squad for the first time this year, which was hugely positive news for everyone concerned.
Much of the pre-match talk was about Liverpool‘s much-criticised ticket prices ahead of next season, and the home fans showed their displeasure, with black flags and banners out in force.
It was a slow start to the game, with Anfield almost eerily quiet.
Patrick van Aanholt had the first effort on goal, with the left-back dragging a long-range effort harmlessly wide of the Anfield Road net.
Dejan Lovren disappointingly picked up an early injury, with Kolo Toure replacing the Croatian 11 minutes into proceedings.
Vito Mannone made a good stop to deny the goal-bound Alberto Moreno on the 20-minute mark, although the Spaniard’s finish was indicative of Liverpool‘s lack of ruthlessness in front of goal this season.
James Milner didn’t make the most of being sent through on goal soon after, while some lazy touches saw Anfield growing increasingly restless.
A fizzing left-footed strike from Roberto Firmino flew just over the crossbar, while Moreno headed over in a great position.
The injured Allen was replaced by Jordon Ibe just before the whistle, as Liverpool‘s injury woes show no sign of going way.
Van Aanholt almost turned the ball into his own net, and it was the final moment of a forgettable opening 45 minutes. The Reds did improve a little as the half went on, though.
Having only enjoyed a pitiful 18 per cent of possession in the first-half, Sunderland actually looked quite confident on the ball in the early minutes after the restart.
Liverpool also had a little more zip to their play, although their final ball proved to be their Achilles heel at crucial times.
A lovely piece of individual play from Firmino saw the Brazilian shoot just wide of the target from range, while at the other end, Sunderland threatened from a couple of corners.
In the 59th minute, Liverpool were ahead. Firmino, the Reds’ most lively attacking player, headed home Milner’s precise to bring Anfield to life. It was their first goal in nearly four matches.
Jordan Henderson, still very much struggling for form, shot wide from distance, while Van Aanholt missed a wonderful chance to equalise in front of the Kop.
It was 2-0 with just over 20 minutes remaining. Firmino raced through, before unselfishly squaring for Lallana to tap the ball home.
As many fans had threatened to do all week, Anfield emptied noticeably after 77 minutes, venting their anger at owners FSG and their ticket prices in the process. It was unprecedented.
With nine minutes remaining, Sunderland pulled one back. Adam Johnson’s free-kick crept past Mignolet, but the Belgian simply had to do better.
Incredibly, Jermain Defoe then scored a late equaliser to stun the remaining fans inside Anfield. Once again Liverpool had fallen short of victory.
It was a bitterly disappointing result, especially when the game appeared to be over at 2-0. Did the walk-out affect the players?
TIA Man of the Match: Roberto Firmino
Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren (Toure 11′), Sakho, Moreno, Henderson (Lucas 86′), Can, Allen (Ibe 45′), Lallana, Milner, Firmino.
Subs not used: Ward, Benteke, Sturridge, Flanagan
Sunderland: Mannone, Jones (Yedlin 75′), van Aanholt, O’Shea, Kone, Kirchhoff (Johnson 66′), Cattermole, M’Vila, Khazri, Watmore (N’Doye 25′), Defoe.
Subs not used: Pickford, Brown, Rodwell, Toivonen
Referee: Bobby Madley