Liverpool let slip a two-goal lead against struggling Sunderland at Anfield in a game where 77th minute walkout by the fans took centre-stage.
The surprise news before the kick-off was the unavailability of Jurgen Klopp at Anfield as the German was suffering from appendicitis.
There was one change to the lineup that featured against Leicester in midweek, with Allen replacing Lucas in the midfield. The team shape was pretty much the same 4-3-3 with Firmino leading the line and Can coming in that holding midfield role.
Well, as far as performance is concerned, it was complete contrast in both the halves but Achilles Heel was anxious defence which ultimately cost Reds two valuable points against a relegation-threatened side.
It was a 4-3-3 system to start with but injuries to Lovren and Allen forced Zeljko Buvac(assistant manager) to change the system into a 4-2-3-1 with Can and Henderson holding the midfield; Ibe, Lallana and Milner in behind Firmino.
So, let’s take a look at both the shapes and analyse the performances of players in every fronts and take up few points regarding a disease in Liverpool ‘the defence’ :
The attack again had a pedestrianisation in it for first 40 odd minutes, it improved with much sharper movements and purposeful closing downs especially from Firmino, the Brazilian was again menacing in that striker role. Lallana had a decent game if overall game is seen, he looked dazed in the opening parts of the game but in the second half changed his game and closed Sunderland down in tight spaces.
Milner had a good game in both the flanks, as I say both flanks it means he changed flanks from right to left after the introduction of Ibe, the veteran was again good in pressing the opposition fullbacks and not allowing them to clear the ball in right direction, his delightful cross setup the first goal, his sloppy passing does frustrate his well-wishers though.
Midfield was again a cause of concern, transition play was not sharper from both Can and Henderson especially, the captain is still returning from heel injury and few plays of his were very disappointing and seem to slow down the whole team’s tempo, his main liability at this moment is long range passing, the pass is either slow or just behind the player that takes sting out of the whole movement.
The back four was untested for most part of the game but when it came under scanner, failed miserably. Mignolet got his wall totally wrong from the free-kick that allowed Johnson to score and get Sunderland right back in the game.
This was the situation with that free-kick, Mignolet was covering the far post alright but the positioning of the wall is questionable to me, it was a five-man wall with three of them totally out of the frame of the goal, so the Belgian should have called the wall to be more towards the right-hand side(from figure it’s the left-hand side) so that he has less area to cover in the near post, Johnson swung in the free-kick towards that expected gap in the near post and Mignolet failed to keep that out despite getting under it.
For the second goal, the question should be raised to Sakho the way he defended Defoe, inside the penalty area if you become that tight to a striker, you will have to pay a goal for it then, he allowed Defoe to turn and shoot without being hassled off.
So, another capitulation by Liverpool giving away two points, to concede twice after being 2-0 up till the 80th minute against a relegation-threatened side at home sounds grumbling. Mignolet again was error-prone and it remains to be seen whether he is a first choice Liverpool keeper after the summer.
Klopp was going through his appendicitis surgery while the game went on, he would not be a happy man at the hospital after hearing his team succumb like this. Now, the irony is till the 77th minute(before the scheduled walkout from the fans), Liverpool were coasting to a comfortable victory, as soon as Anfield went half empty, Reds conceded two in 8 minutes, it will be stupid to say that players were distracted but it did affect the atmosphere and probably a bit of a game too.
The banner was rightly saying ‘Football without fans is nothing’.
By Mizgan Ahmed on 7th February, 2016
Twitter – @mizgans