Friday 30 September 2016

Sickener for Klopp as Sunderland stage stunning recovery

Liverpool 2-2 Sunderland

Andy Hunter

Published 07/02/2016 | 02:30

Jermain Defoe: Scored a late leveller Photo: Reuters / Carl Recine
Jermain Defoe: Scored a late leveller Photo: Reuters / Carl Recine
Liverpool's James Milner congratulates Roberto Firmino Photo: Richard Sellers/PA Wire
Liverpool fans protested at the new ticket prices imposed by the club Photo: Reuters / Phil Noble
Jermain Defoe celebrates scoring the second goal for Sunderland Photo: Reuters / Carl Recine

Jürgen Klopp's problems were not confined to the suspected appendicitis that kept him away from Anfield as Liverpool's supporters staged a mass walk-out in protest at rising ticket prices and his players blew a two-goal lead at home to struggling Sunderland. Jermain Defoe struck an 89th minute equaliser on a day Liverpool - and their under-pressure owners - would like to forget.

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Thousands upon thousands of fans heeded the call for a 77th-minute boycott, singing: "You greedy b******s, enough is enough" as they went, but that was just the start of Liverpool's problems. Klopp's team were two goals to the good at that point - thanks to Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana - but Sam Allardyce's relegation-threatened side fought back impressively to take a point courtesy of Adam Johnson's free-kick and Defoe's late finish.

Liverpool were too slow on the ball and slow to react in the first half. The best openings fell to Alberto Moreno. Vito Mannone saved well from the Spanish left-back after he had been released inside the box by Lallana and the defender headed a glorious chance on to the root of the net.

Sunderland's willingness to invite pressure seemed a risky strategy given their defensive vulnerability and so it proved when Firmino took control after the interval and looked to have steered Liverpool towards a welcome home win. The Brazilian went close with a 25-yard drive after nutmegging Jan Kirchhoff. He then opened the scoring in fine style when James Milner swept over a cross from the left-hand touchline and Firmino sent a header back across Mannone and inside the far post.

Victory seemed assured when Firmino charged down a Billy Jones clearance and played a perfect pass behind the sprawling John O'Shea for Lallana to convert into an empty net.

Then came the walk-out and the stirring recovery. Johnson, on for Kirchhoff, began the fight-back with a low free-kick that curled around the Liverpool wall and beat Simon Mignolet's weak grasp at his near post. In the final minute, with Liverpool dropping off dangerously, Wahbi Khazri found Defoe inside the penalty area and the predator turned to fire in an unstoppable finish.

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