FULL TIME AT ANFIELD MATCH REVIEW: REDS OVERCOME STUBBORN SUNDERLAND AS COUTINHO IS INJURED
The first half rampant assault leading to a sub-half hour opener is what is slowly becoming Liverpool’s signature and most punters would defend their smart money being on a quick finish to this match especially against relegation scrapping Sunderland who haven’t defeated us at Anfield in an EPL match since the turn of the 21st century. So this match seemed to be done and dusted stats-wise even before kickoff but as we’ve learned so far in the EPL not everything goes according to script and this Moyes’ side today showed the kind of grit that’ll definitely make them a nightmare come May 2017 when the bottom-half of the table fight heats up.
Jurgen Klopp went with our usual triple threat upfront; Coutinho, Firmino, and Mane leading the charge with Wijnaldum, Henderson, and Emre Can providing support in the middle while Matip, Milner, Lovren, and Clyne provided cover for our man between the sticks, Loris Karius. The Reds went hard in the first few minutes of the fixture looking, as they have all season, to starve the opposition of ball time while crafting out multiple pronged attacks at their final third. The first ten minutes saw Sunderland having less than 10% possession with Liverpool dictating the pace and pretty much building pyramids in Sunderland’s half. Sadly this resulted in zilch as Moyes’ men held firm as they parked the bus with a very clear sense of purpose to keep the Reds at bay and no matter how much we huffed and puffed, Sunderland’s double-decker bus kept most of our attempts from penetrating their final third. Not much in highlight reel goal attempts, as the main talking point of the first half was Coutinho getting stretchered off the pitch after gruesome 50-50 with Didier Ndong, his ankle getting the worse of the challenge and eventually ending up in a brace, Divock Origi getting the green-light to replace the Brazilian.
The second half saw the visitors sticking to their strategy and maybe hoping to pull off what Southampton did last week and as the minutes ticked away, Klopp’s men cranked up the attack with even more urgency; the possession stuck at 80-20% in our favor but the score remained goalless. Emre Can flashed an effort just wide as the molten hot Red rain kept falling in Sunderland’s final third as every Liverpool player seemed almost on edge trying to make some headway through. Imperative too as our title campaign demands we win games like this. Just as it seemed the game would forever be altered after Coutinho’s exit, his replacement, the dynamic Divock Origi, out of nothing really picked up the ball left of the area, before cutting back to curl his effort past Pickford to send Anfield to seventh heaven in the 75th minute. An amazing run by Sadio Mane in the 89th minute saw him beating Denayer with his searing pace before Didier Ndong came across with a late challenge to foul him in the 18yd box. An easy decision for the ref and an even easier finish for James Milner as he sent Jordan Pickford the wrong way to put it beyond doubt for the Reds. Wijnaldum’s departure in injury time saw EPL debutant, Ben Woodburn, getting his first cap for us moments before the ref blew the whistle for full-time.
What was pleasing about today was, unlike the Burnley game, Liverpool stayed patient for the full game and it reaped it rewards. Rather than lose their heads and shoot from all angles, the team continued to play their football and they got their reward for it with a lovely opening goal from Origi. Also, we proved that we could not only keep up our onslaught consistent and creative in the absence of Coutinho but also grab all three points which is doubly important going into that treacherous December/January schedule where Klopp will have to pick and choose his starting 11 wisely.
Man of the Match
Jordan Henderson: While most would wilt and fade away when playing against their former clubs, our captain put in a magnificent shift today as he made the most completed passes and got the assist for our opener.