LIVERPOOL, Feb 7, 2016 (BSS/AFP) – Liverpool shrugged off the embarrassing spectacle of over 10,000 protesting fans walking out of Anfield on Saturday as Sunderland battled back for a 2-2 draw.
On the day that coach Jurgen Klopp was forced to miss the match to have his appendix removed, Liverpool suffered more acute pain as they surrendered a two-goal lead just after around a quarter of the 44,000 fans inside the ground stormed out in a row over ticket prices.
The dramatic mutiny took place after 77 minutes in protest at the new ticket price structure at the club once the Main Stand development is finished.
The most expensive ticket will cost o77 ($112), hence the protest.
“The players were not affected (by the walkout),” insisted Liverpool’s development coach Pepijn Lijnders who faced the media in the absence of Klopp.
“We have some of the best supporters in the world and around the world. If they want to make a statement they have the right to make a statement.
“It changed the atmosphere in the stadium but not the group of players.”
The Reds appeared to be cruising towards victory after second-half goals from Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana, but Sunderland fought back magnificently as firstly Adam Johnson and then Jermain Defoe stunned Anfield in the lasty eight minutes.
“Normally the scoreboard doesn’t lie but today it did in my opinion,” insisted Lijnders.
“For 82 minutes we played really well and battled well. We were good to be honest and we dominated the game and we could always find a free player and we opened them up.
“But then we dropped off too much and let them play longer balls and that’s why the free-kick is where it is.
“We felt we were in control of the game but then one moment changes everything.”
There can be little doubt though that the sight of at least 10,000 Liverpool fans heading for the exits must have been off-putting as Johnson scored a fine 20-yard free-kick just minutes after the protest began.
Defoe then showed the poacher’s instinct that has been a hallmark of his long career, twisting inside the box and slashing past Simon Mignolet.
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce was the first to admit that Defoe’s equaliser had surprised him given Liverpool’s territorial dominance.
But he was not complaining as the point gained on Merseyside could prove vital if Sunderland are to avoid relegation.
“I didn’t see that coming, but a bit of quality can always change a game can’t it?” Allardyce said.
“In the end, the last 15 minutes were in our favour. It didn’t look possible when we went 2-0 down but it’s a strange old game isn’t it?
“When we scored we had more belief and we scored two quality goals today. If you never say die and have Jermain Defoe up front you can get something out of the game.
“We might not have deserved what we got but it was a very precious point for us.
“To come from 2-0 down at Anfield to get a point in the position we are in is excellent.”
Meanwhile, 48-year-old Klopp underwent successful surgery to remove his appendix at Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool at around lunchtime on Saturday and was informed of his team’s result afterwards.
Klopp is expected to make a quick and full recovery, although it remains unclear as to whether he will be able to sit on the bench for Tuesday’s FA Cup replay against West Ham United at Upton Park.