Liverpool vs. Sunderland: Winners and Losers from Premier League

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2016

Liverpool vs. Sunderland: Winners and Losers from Premier League

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    Liverpool threw away a two-goal lead at home to Sunderland in the last 10 minutes of their Premier League match on Saturday, drawing 2-2 in a match notable for many reasons from the start to the finish, with Reds manager Jurgen Klopp missing the match through appendicitis and the home fans walking out late in the game.

    Roberto Firmino proved the difference for the Reds as he scored one and set up another in quick succession after half-time to put Liverpool clear, but an Adam Johnson free-kick and a late equaliser from Jermaine Defoe left the teams level.

    Here are all our biggest winners and losers from the game.

Winner: Roberto Firmino

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    The stand-out player by some distance, Roberto Firmino had been the most creative, inventive and aggressive attacker on the pitch. He had already gone close twice with drilled shots from range, before he finally opened the scoring in the 60th minute.

    Some good movement and anticipation from Firmino gave him room to score the header, but it was all work rate and technique to set up the second, as he closed down Billy Jones, drove into the area and unselfishly laid the ball off for Adam Lallana to score.

    It should have comfortably been enough to give Liverpool the points—but apparently not.

Losers: Patrick Van Aanholt and Billy Jones

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    Sunderland's full-backs were kept busy all game long, having to track runs in behind them and make challenges to stop cut-backs, but both of them were undone with a lack of concentration and poor decision-making at crucial moments.

    Patrick van Aanholt, playing on the left, lost Firmino for the opening goal as the forward peeled off him, while shortly afterward, the Dutchman had a great chance to set up an equaliser for his team but shot wastefully wide with an unmarked Defoe in the middle.

    As for right-back Billy Jones, he was under no pressure when he received possession in his own half, but delayed and was challenged by Firmino and failed to recover, directly giving away the goal for 2-0, which should have ended matters. He then played Liverpool in for another chance by being five yards behind his defence and leaving everyone onside, before being subbed off minutes later.

Winner: Nathaniel Clyne

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    Liverpool dominated possession throughout and were comfortably the more adventurous team, but that didn't make them all-round inventive and creative—the passing was at times slow, predictable and lacking in any real movement.

    Often in the first hour of the game, the runs to break lines in Sunderland's back four came from the full-backs, with Nathaniel Clyne particularly effective at playing quick one-twos and running behind the defence, looking for cut-backs or crosses and even one or two shooting chances.

    Defensively he was strong and has been a good performer for his team of late.

Loser: Simon Mignolet

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    A recurring theme of Liverpool's dire league season has been their propensity to concede goals far too easily, especially as soon as the opposition manages a single shot on target.

    Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet went one better against his old club, conceding from both of the only two shots the Black Cats had on target in the game, as noted by ESPN's Alex Shaw on Twitter.

    Mignolet should have stopped the first, a free-kick that squirmed under his hands into the bottom corner, and even if he had little chance from the equaliser, he had already shown poor distribution more than once to gift Sunderland shooting opportunities—another poor display from the Belgian.

Winners...or Losers?: The Fans at Anfield

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    It was planned, it was announced and it was carried out: Liverpool supporters exited en masse at the 77-minute mark in protest at ticket prices going up.

    There were by no means a majority who exited at that point, but certainly a few thousand did so to try to make a point—so who wins? The fans left at 2-0 up, and their side eventually didn't hold onto the lead, the owners already knew about the dissatisfaction so won't necessarily have taken anything additional from the walkout and, online as well as in the stands, there was a split in opinion as to whether it was the right course of action to take.

    One thing is certain: on the day, it didn't help. But, obviously, the core point of the supporters involved is about a far more long-term view than one match. Either way, it's not going to be the end of the unhappiness all-round—and even more so perhaps because of the result.

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