'Hungry' Origi adds to Anfield optimism
Liverpool 2 Sunderland 0
This was one of those rare occasions when hearty full-time celebrations were reassuring for both the victorious and defeated managers.
For Jurgen Klopp, this was a gruelling win that told us everything about Liverpool's endurance levels.
David Moyes, meanwhile, could leave Merseyside encouraged by how much the opposition had toiled, rather than deflated that his own side had succumbed. Sunderland were unable to extend an improved run of results, but they are proving a tougher proposition than two months ago.
Liverpool have claimed bigger scalps, and produced more captivating display, but it is the response to adversity - the banishment of self-doubt when questions are asked - that is the measure of a genuine title contender.
For 75 minutes the absence of Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge, allied to the premature exit of Philippe Coutinho with a worrying ankle injury, was draining Liverpool of ideas.
It was to Sunderland's credit that rather than look back to his bench, or formulate a fresh tactical plan, Klopp deemed manic cheerleading the most appropriate response, thus ensuring throaty roars of encouragement from the Anfield crowd replaced groans of exasperation after another overhit Emre Can pass.
The Kop responded, Liverpool kept scurrying forward, Sunderland's blockade weakened and Divock Origi finally tricked the impressive Jordan Pickford with a swerving right-foot shot.
Origi was a match winner with a suitably appropriate back story, given how the game evolved.
All the talk was of patience rewarded, biding time and ensuring an untimely injury did not scupper lofty ambitions. For Origi's last seven months, read Liverpool's first 75 minutes here.
It has been a lengthy wait for Origi to be reunited with the form that made him Klopp's preferred central striker prior to being injured in April's Merseyside derby.
The Europa League campaign climaxed without him, and although he played in the European Championships for Belgium, the forward was not fit enough to have an impact.
"It was a hard knock for me to get injured during that period. I was feeling good and in the best moment of my career," Origi said.
"You have to stay patient in a positive manner. I worked a lot to stay sharp for when I can help the team. I showed I am very hungry and willing to make the steps to help the team.
"I couldn't actually describe how I felt at that moment (I scored). Everyone was so hungry, so passionate - the supporters, the manager. Everyone desired these three points. In the end we stayed patient and we deserved it."
Longer term, 21-year-old Origi demonstrated what he can offer should Coutinho be absent for a significant time - the extent of his injury will be determined by a scan today.
Regardless of that diagnosis, with Sadio Mane away on African Nations Cup duty in January, this form bodes well to ensure a replacement is already at the club.
Mane had his most difficult afternoon of the season yet his power and pace still brought the second goal when he won the 90th-minute penalty converted by James Milner.
That gave the result a fairer reflection of the balance of play, but Sunderland are fighting for their manager. Worse teams than Sunderland have come to Anfield this season. Worse teams will follow.
Klopp is under no illusions exactly how they are likely to set up - the cautious tactical blueprint is presumably pasted to the away dressing-room wall - which is why finding and demonstrating a way to break through those barricades bodes well for the rest of Liverpool's campaign. (© Daily Telegraph, London)