Yes, I’m aware the title originally said Southampton instead of Sunderland. No, I’m not on “the drugs”.
With twenty minutes left to play at Anfield, it looked like Liverpool were in for a repeat of the goalless draw with Southampton last weekend with their utter dominance of a well organized Sunderland side failing to translate into the goals they so richly deserved, but a late curling effort from Divock Origi and a James Milner penalty after Sadio Mane was upended in injury time saw the Reds return briefly to the top of the table until Chelsea eased past Tottenham Hotspur later in the day.
Pushing from the start, the hosts were clearly the only side intent on trying to find the back of the net, but their first half surge was dented considerably when Philippe Coutinho was stretchered off with an foot injury after clashing with Mackems midfielder Didier Ndong. With Daniel Sturridge sidelined with a tight calf, Origi was drafted in and though the Belgian looked a touch off the pace at the start, his willingness to run the channels was rewarded with his first Premier League goal of the season as the 21-year old broke the deadlock with a strike reminiscent of something the Brazilian might conjure up.
Up until then, Anfield was getting antsy and with a few groans echoing around the ground, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp let the crowd know exactly what he thought of their frustrations as the German cajoled them — in fittingly fiery way — in to getting behind the team instead of complaining about them. Forced to go and look for an equalizer, the Black Cats were opened up and it wasn’t long before Mane was racing from the halfway line before being unceremoniously clattered by Ndong and Mr. Reliable in Milner was slotting past Sunderland ‘keeper Jordan Pickford to put the result out of question.
“That we are able to beat even the most defensive team I have ever played against. That’s actually a nice thing to learn. It’s not about me to say what other teams are doing, but we forced them in this position,” said Klopp when asked what he learned from the win over the Mackems. “The box was quite full and we had the situations where we could have made this or that better decisions, but the closer the space gets the more difficult it is so you need to stay patient,” continued the Reds manager. “That’s the job for all of us to do when you want to be in the top region of the table, you need to collect points and don’t care against who.”
Sunderland, for their part, were looking good to grab at least a point with David Moyes setting his side up to frustrate more than anything, but they gave Liverpool ‘keeper Loris Karius more than one scare with the German getting down low to stop both Steven Pienaar and Duncan Watmore as the visitors looked to snatch an unlikely opener. Still without a win at Anfield, Moyes now sees his side drop to the bottom of the table despite seeing his side park the “double decker bus” he mentioned prior to the match for large swathes of it.
The Reds, on the other hand, keep the pace at the top of the table going in to a League Cup meeting with Championship side Leeds United on Tuesday and a trip to AFC Bournemouth on the weekend, but you have to wonder how they’ll cope without the talismanic Coutinho who looks set for an extended spell on the sidelines. Couple with that Sturridge’s fitness woes, the knock Roberto Firmino took in the closing stages and Adam Lallana’s ongoing absence and the question marks multiply. If Klopp wasn’t earning his money before, now’s the time…