Belfast Telegraph

Ref's key decisions are difficult for Liverpool boss Klopp to stomach

Sunderland 2 - Liverpool 2

By Michael Walker

Jurgen Klopp departed Wearside a frustrated man, describing himself as a "loser" even though Liverpool drew 2-2 at Sunderland.

That was how gutted the title challengers felt after twice conceding a lead to David Moyes' relegation-threatened side.

Liverpool had hoped a fifth consecutive Premier League victory would haul them to within three points of Chelsea - who play at Tottenham tonight - but two Jermain Defoe penalties scuppered that ambition.

"In this moment it is hard for me to accept but I have to be professional," Klopp said. "Obviously it (the title race) is not finally done.

"Maybe I don't look like the best loser in the world. I have no problem with it, that's it. Today, two penalties against us doesn't feel good. Usually I like to talk about football. It is difficult today."

Klopp's side took the lead in the 19th minute.

It was a bad goal for the Black Cats to concede. James Milner's corner was met by the unmarked Dejan Lovren 14 yards out and his scuffed shot bounced nicely for the unmarked Daniel Sturridge to nod over Vito Mannone. Sunderland's defenders looked at each other blankly.

Given their last result - a 4-1 loss at Burnley - this felt crushing for Moyes' players.

But they have displayed some spirit these past few difficult months and just five minutes later it was 1-1 after Didier Ndong went down in the Liverpool area and referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot.

Ndong squeezed himself between Georginio Wijnaldum and Ragnar Klavan but, as penalties go, it could not be called nailed-on. Maybe stapled on, or attached by paper clip.

Defoe, naturally, thought only about the consequence and drilled a low shot successfully to Simon Mignolet's right.

Understandably the pace dipped after that beginning, which was of greater concern to Klopp's team than Moyes'.

Liverpool lacked midfield urgency and it was not evident on the re-start. Ten minutes into the second half, in fact, there were solid claims for a second Sunderland penalty when an Adnan Januzaj flick caught Emre Can on the arm. Can appeared to motion towards the ball. Klopp was slumped in his dugout seat.

The vitality usually associated with Liverpool was missing. There was a half-chance for Sadio Mane but there was the same for Defoe - third-bottom were matching second-top.

Indeed, the travelling fans were singing for Divock Origi when Mane struck wide. But then Sturridge and Adam Lallana exchanged a one-two and Mannone palmed away the former's effort.

From the resulting corner, taken by Alberto Moreno, Sunderland's Papy Djilobodji flicked the ball backwards to the unmarked Mane, who stabbed home. There were howls from the home crowd as Mane looked offside, but the previous touch had been from a Sunderland head.

The next time those howls were as loud was when Defoe was fouled - arguably - 12 minutes later. A free-kick in the Liverpool 'D' brought a Sebastian Larsson curler that was handled by Mane.

Referee Taylor again pointed to the spot and Defoe again stepped up to belt in a penalty.

Klopp walked onto the pitch at the end to give referee Taylor his opinion, particularly of the free-kick awarded to the Black Cats which led to the 84th minute equaliser.

"If you see it again, there was no contact," Klopp added of the alleged foul on Defoe by substitute Lucas Leiva.

"I saw it in the game and the fourth official saw it. It's not the worst mistake in the world but it is so hard (to take).

"In the second half we dominated the game. Usually I would say we could have done better. But I am not sure if we could have done better. I don't know exactly if we could have done better because I was not wearing the shooting boots."

Klopp was alluding to the number of shots saved by Sunderland keeper Mannone.

"We scored the second goal, it felt good, it felt deserved," he said.

"Then I would say no foul, no free-kick. I saw it again and there was no contact. Then handball, 2-2, I must be honest it doesn't feel good."

Sturridge limped off with an ankle injury that is not thought to be too serious.

Liverpool flowed at the beginning but were ponderous after that. Moyes thought that his team and tactics should be given credit.

"I thought we did well," Moyes said. "We stuck at it. We stuck against Liverpool as much as we could and tried to make it hard for them and we played well as well."

Referring back to Klopp's comments in November, after Liverpool had beaten Sunderland 2-0 at Anfield and Klopp called Moyes' team "the most defensive team I ever saw", the former Manchester United boss added: "I honestly thought today the players raised the supporters by the way they got up to Liverpool, how they put them under pressure, how they pressed them.

"Maybe if I was a German manager, you might praise that. If I'd been German, you might praise me for doing something different."

SUNDERLAND: Mannone, van Aanholt, Djilobodji, Larsson, Rodwell (Manquillo, 65 mins), Borini, O'Shea, Ndong, Defoe, Love, Januzaj (Khazri, 79 mins). Unused subs: Mika, Honeyman, Maja, Embleton, Ledger.

Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner (Moreno, 46 mins), Lallana, Can, Wijnaldum (Origi, 73 mins), Mane, Sturridge (Lucas, 80 mins), Firmino. Unused subs: Karius, Stewart, Ejaria, Alexander-Arnold.

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Man of the match: Jermain Defoe

Match rating: 7/10


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