Liverpool fans' walkout didn't cause lost lead - assistant Pepijn Lijnders
LIVERPOOL -- Liverpool assistant coach Pepijn Lijnders denied his team were affected by the fans' walkout after they wasted a two-goal lead and drew 2-2 with Sunderland at Anfield.
With Liverpool leading 2-0, fans carried out their threatened 77th-minute exit in protest at next season's rise in ticket prices, and the visitors went on to score after 82 minutes through an Adam Johnson free kick and Jermain Defoe's finish in the 89th minute.
That ensured Sunderland left Anfield with a point that had seemed unlikely when Adam Lallana scored the Reds' second goal in the 70th minute, after Roberto Firmino had given a dominant home side the lead in the 59th.
First-team development coach Lijnders took charge of the Reds after manager Jurgen Klopp fell ill on Friday night and was diagnosed with appendicitis. Klopp went to hospital before Saturday's match and had an operation to have his appendix removed, but Lijnders backed the supporters' right to protest.
Asked if Liverpool players suffered from the walkout, he said: "No. We have one of the best supporter groups in the world and if they want to make a statement they have every right to."
Lijnders also felt Liverpool had done enough to win the game.
"Normally the scoreboard doesn't lie but today, it did, in my opinion," he said. "For 82 minutes, we played really well and we became better throughout the game, especially after our goal.
"We were good and we dominated the game, could always find the free player and moved the ball from left to right, to open them up."
Indeed, Johnson's goal came from Liverpool dropping too deep once they were 2-0 up, according to the coach.
"Normally, if you score early then the game gets easier," Lijnders said. "In the last 10 minutes we dropped off too much and let them play longer balls. They were closer to our goal and that's why the free kick is in that position instead of 20 yards higher up the pitch.
"We felt that we were in control of the game and you see that one moment changes everything. There are still eight to 10 minutes where you have to be calm and play."
Lijnders did not agree that Liverpool were nervous in general and added: "If you want to point at something, the amount of moments we get in between the lines and in the final third, we have to stay calmer and use our skill more to outplay opponents, to risk and to play the through pass.
"If you talk about anxiety, probably for me it's not in the last 10 minutes, it is in the final third. Overall, if you look at it from a performance point of view and how we analyse different lines, it was OK. The problem was the game wasn't 82 minutes, it was 95."
Lijnders also confirmed that Dejan Lovren -- who limped off after 11 minutes in what looked like a recurrence of his recent hamstring trouble -- had been taken off as a precaution because of cramp.
Joe Allen, who was also replaced in the first half, was "fatigued" and will have a scan on an unspecified muscle problem on Sunday.
Tom is ESPN FC's Liverpool correspondent. Follow him @writertombell.