FULL TIME AT ANFIELD REVIEW: REDS DROP POINTS AT STADIUM OF LIGHT IN 2-2 DRAW
Two games in 48 hours – a tough ask for any team to come out the other end with 6 points in the bag but a requirement for a team challenging for the title like Liverpool are. Against relegation strugglers, Sunderland, the match looked in our favor despite the Reds putting in a full shift less than 48 hours before kickoff against top 4 contender, Man City. Klopp fielded an unchanged back line of Milner, Klavan, Lovren, and Clyne; at the middle of the park Emre Can stepped in for Henderson partnering up with Wijnaldum and Lallana looking to provide attacking support to Mane, Firmino, and surprise starter, Daniel Sturridge.
Regardless of the Reds being far from 100% there was a job to be done on the home team even though we would have to work harder for the 3 points. Unfortunately, the sore muscles and depleted focus got the better of the lads today as rookie mistakes in the back came back again to haunt us and though we were slightly less disastrous upfront, our two goals got neutralized by Moyes’ men getting two of their own as the exasperated traveling Kop looked helplessly on as the Reds faded away in the idea department against a team that has been in the relegation zone all season.
In the end two neatly converted penalties from the evergreen Jermaine Defoe forced the Reds to share the spoils on this matchday. Deservedly so, seeing as the home team carved out enough chances of their own to take the game to the Reds and were resolute in the back with their goalie, Vito Mannone holding his nerve and focus to see most of our attempts as what they were – tame.
A big blow to our title aspirations and whether today’s slipup will be on the same level as Gerrard’s “slippy” moment is yet to be seen as Chelsea still have a match at hand against fiery Tottenham. A match every Kop will be rooting for Spurs to take home all 3 points.
Klopp’s failure to lead from the front signaled the genesis of our underachievement this matchday as he, before the match, complained bitterly about our fixture placement, how ridiculous it was to have Liverpool play less than 48 hours after an energy sapping match against Man City highlighting how fellow title contenders, Chelsea, weren’t subjected to such ill-considerations in the fixtures as they were to play on Wednesday. Though our gaffe was right, in the minds of physically ready players at top mental acuity such rants would have been just another mind game tactic but when energy levels are low, such negativity may not get filtered out. And clearly it wasn’t as the sharpness in our attack faded as the match went on, the quickness of anticipation wasn’t there in our defenses either and a general lack of depth was apparent for all to see as relegation scrappers, Sunderland pretty much dictated play in both halves, showing imagination in their build-ups and counters, and looking by far the fresher side.
Hero and Villian; In almost all my reviews on Liverpool this season, Sadio Mane always gets special mention and our Senegalese dangerman deserves every bit of praise but today despite breaking out of the fray to position himself expertly to convert a setpiece for Liverpool’s second goal, he got caught making a very rookie mistake in the wall set up to stop a Sunderland direct freekick. Mane in trying to keep an adjoining Sunderland player from leaving the wall, thereby creating space, reached out and saw his arm stopping the ball in our box. Easy decision for the official.
Mr. Glass lives On; Seeing Sturridge in the starting lineup was a worry for me but 19 minutes into the game, his goal eased my fears a little but true to form his glassy antics in the second half caused us to lose momentum and resolve for a few minutes and that was all it took for Sunderland to mount their charge, pressuring substitute Lucas Leiva into making an unnecessary foul within two yards of our penalty box that resulted in a second goal for the Black Cats. Going forward, I really don’t see Sturridge making any meaningful headway to getting a secure spot in the starting lineup and if I were Klopp I’d definitely be looking for how to unload him at the end of the season if not sooner.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Jermaine Defoe Escaping relegation might be a tall order for the Black Cats this season but with their able talisman gaining confidence with each match, scoring twice today to take his tally this season to 11 goals, the Stadium of Light may just live to feature as hosts to another season in the top flight.