Football: Draw, protest amplify Juergen Klopp's pain

Liverpool's Belgian goalkeeper Simon Mignolet made a hash of things, allowing the free kick from Adam Johnson (not in picture) to squirm through at the near post for Sunderland's first goal.
Liverpool's Belgian goalkeeper Simon Mignolet made a hash of things, allowing the free kick from Adam Johnson (not in picture) to squirm through at the near post for Sunderland's first goal. PHOTO: REUTERS
Liverpool fans leaving their seats in the 77th minute of the match in protest against the £77 (S$157) pricing for tickets in the stadium's newly reconstructed Main Stand.
Liverpool fans leaving their seats in the 77th minute of the match in protest against the £77 (S$157) pricing for tickets in the stadium's newly reconstructed Main Stand.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LONDON • Juergen Klopp had his appendix removed by surgeons at Aintree hospital on Saturday, two points removed by Jermain Defoe in the 89th minute and any notion about harmony at Liverpool removed by a mass protest against rising ticket prices at Anfield.

Pity the poor soul who woke the Liverpool manager to tell him this 2-2 result.

An estimated 10,000 supporters heeded the call for a 77th-minute walkout against Sunderland, singing "You greedy b******s, enough is enough" as they went in the hope that someone at the owner - Fenway Sports Group - was listening.

Anger and appendicitis were not Klopp's only problems, however, as Liverpool blew a two-goal lead with eight minutes remaining against Sam Allardyce's relegation-threatened team.

The exodus came with Liverpool cruising and Sunderland having offered little as a cohesive attacking threat, but attributing the comeback to empty seats in the stadium would be foolish in the extreme.

Five Liverpool players failing to make a challenge, as Sunderland worked the ball across the pitch before Defoe's equaliser had a greater impact on the result than any dissenting voice in the crowd.

"The players were not affected (by the walkout)," insisted Liverpool's development coach Pepijn Lijnders, who faced the media in the absence of Klopp. "We have some of the best supporters in the world and around the world. If they want to make a statement they have the right to make a statement.

"It changed the atmosphere in the stadium but it didn't change the team's mentality."

The Reds appeared to have victory sealed after second-half goals from Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana, but Sunderland fought back magnificently as first Adam Johnson (free kick) and then Defoe - showing the poacher's instinct that has been a hallmark of his long career, twisting inside the box and slashing past Simon Mignolet - stunned Anfield.

"Normally the scoreboard doesn't lie but today it did," insisted Lijnders. "For 82 minutes we played really well and battled well...

"But then we dropped off too much and let them play longer balls and that's why the free kick is where it is. We felt we were in control of the game but then one moment changes everything."

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce was the first to admit that Defoe's equaliser had surprised him, given Liverpool's territorial dominance. But he was not complaining, as the point gained on Merseyside could prove vital if Sunderland are to avoid relegation.

"I didn't see that coming, but a bit of quality can always change a game, can't it?" Allardyce said.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2016, with the headline 'Draw, protest amplify Klopp's pain'. Print Edition | Subscribe