Liverpool 2-0 Sunderland
Premier League, Anfield
Saturday November 26th 2016
Goals: Origi 75′, Milner 90+1 (pen).
The Reds overcame a stubborn and unadventurous Sunderland side to grind out an impressive win at Anfield.
Coming off the back of a disappointing stalemate at Southampton where they managed to create but not convert chances, this was an important win which will instil belief in the players that they can break down even the most defensive of sides.
The tide turned in the last fifteen minutes when Liverpool’s fitness work paid off, but though they won three points, they also lost a key member of the team to injury.
Here are just five of the talking points from a chilly afternoon at Anfield.
Coutinho Man Marked Then Stretchered Off
Coutinho spent the first half an hour of the game in the shadow of Sunderland‘s Jason Denayer.
The defender, on loan from Manchester City, tracked the Brazilian’s every move and even followed him to the touchline as he took instruction from Klopp.
Following this conversation with his manager, Coutinho began to swap positions with Mane, leaving Denayer flummoxed, but shortly after this the Brazilian was leaving the field on a stretcher after a clash with Didier Ndong.
Liverpool’s star player was carried down the tunnel with his lower leg in a brace, and looks set to face a lengthy spell on the sidelines with this ankle injury.
It will now be a real test of the strength in depth in Klopp’s squad, and is likely to give a chance to Origi who came off the bench to replace Coutinho.
However, if Origi continues to play how he did today, then the England striker will find his path to the first team blocked once again.
Twice Around The Block and Over The Parked Bus
David Moyes’ Sunderand side played much of this game as if they’d had a man sent off.
Wide forwards Victor Anichebe and Duncan Watmore would drop as far as their back four when Liverpool had the ball, creating a 6-3-1 formation – reminiscent of Brendan Rodgers at Old Trafford last season.
In situations like this the side with the attacking initiative needs to be tidy, direct and quick with their passing, but the final touch was often lacking on this cold afternoon under the Anfield lights.
The cries of “shoot” when Lovren and Matip advanced into the attacking third show how deep the Black Cats defensive line operated.
Liverpool piled on the pressure in the second half, and eventually the wall cracked when Origi’s curling effort from out wide found the bottom corner.
It’s a sign of this team’s flexibility that Origi had found himself in such a position, one which he was able to take up because Firmino had dropped into midfield.
It’s another test passed for Klopp’s team, as they ground out the win, learning from last week’s 0-0 draw at Southampton.
The manager commented after the game that this Sunderland team were the most defensive team he’s ever played against.
Klopp Conducts the Anfield Orchestra
With around an hour gone and his team running out of ideas, Klopp turned to the fans for help.
The German manager called on those sat behind him in the Main Stand to provide the twelfth man required to break down the Sunderland defence.
This noise rippled around to The Kop and eventually reached the Anfield Road end as the stadium turned into a wall of noise.
The fans had responded, and eventually the players did too. Just 15 minutes after Klopp’s outburst, Origi was threading his shot through the ever-retreating Sunderland rearguard, raising the Anfield volume once again.
As Klopp celebrated with his players after the game, he also acknowledged the input from the crowd, responding with several fist pumps as he left the pitch and describing their response as “more than brilliant” in his post-match press conference.
Ben Woodburn Makes His Debut
Having turned 17 on October 15th, he was still some way behind Jack Robinson who appeared for the Reds aged 16 and 250 days against Hull City in May 2010.
Woodburn has been impressing for the club’s youth and under 23 sides so far this season, and made several appearances alongside some first team regulars in the early pre-season friendlies.
The Chester born teenager qualifies for both the England and Wales national teams, but has so far represented Wales at youth level.
There’s likely to be a squabble between the two nations as the forward’s talent becomes more apparent.
Could he be in line for more action in the Cup against Leeds in midweek?
The choice of players ahead of them will depend on fitness, and there’s usually a chance for one or two young players in these games.