Jermain Defoe struck with a minute to play as Sunderland mounted an incredible comeback to claim a 2-2 draw against Liverpool in the Premier League at an unsettled Anfield.
Despite seeing coach Jurgen Klopp laid low by a bout of suspected appendicitis in the build-up and first-half injuries to Joe Allen and Dejan Lovren, the impressive Roberto Firmino looked to have lifted the mood on Merseyside, in a week that had seen fans lash out at raised ticket prices for next season.
Having headed his side into the lead, the Brazilian turned provider for Adam Lallana with 20 minutes remaining before things turned sour for the hosts.
A sizeable number of fans walked out in the 77th minute in protest at the club’s actions in midweek, while others voiced their disapproval.
And in front of a sparse remaining Anfield crowd, Liverpool crumbled as Adam Johnson curled a free-kick past former Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet prior to Defoe’s 89th-minute intervention.
On his first Sunderland start, Wahbi Khazri made the chance for Defoe, who earned Sunderland an unlikely point in a contest Liverpool looked to have sewn up.
While Allardcye recalled Duncan Watmore and handed Khazri his first Sunderland start, Liverpool’s only change saw Allen replace Lucas Leiva in midfield.
The hosts’ recent injury troubles have been well documented and they were dealt an early blow when Lovren was forced off.
After Kolo Toure replaced the Croatia international, Liverpool enjoyed the game’s first spell of pressure as Alberto Moreno delivered a dangerous cross before seeing a low effort saved by Vito Mannone.
Sunderland were then forced into a change as Dame N’Doye replaced Watmore after the winger landed awkwardly on his right foot.
Firmino sent two efforts over the crossbar from distance before the break but Liverpool’s frustrations continued as Allen limped off injured before half-time and was replaced by Jordon Ibe.
Ibe added much needed pace and trickery as Liverpool remained on the front foot after the interval, Firmino going close again before eventually getting on the scoresheet.
The Brazilian peeled away from his marker and diverted James Milner’s deep left-wing delivery back across goal on the hour to lift the mood at Anfield.
Patrick van Aanholt found the side netting when clean through on goal but Firmino showed endeavour to hound Billy Jones into a mistake before selflessly squaring for Lallana to tap in and seemingly settle matters.
But, after sections of the home support streamed out in protest, the visitors roared back as Johnson gave Sunderland hope with a free-kick that crept past Mignolet at the goalkeeper’s near post.
And, after strong running from Van Aanholt and Khazri down the left, Defoe turned smartly and finished clinically to earn Sunderland the most unlikely of points amid audible boos from those who remained at Anfield.
Key Opta stats:
– Jermain Defoe has scored six goals in his last six Premier League appearances for Sunderland.
– Only Sergio Aguero (7) has scored more Premier League goals in 2016 than Jermain Defoe (6).
– James Milner recorded his third assist in his last five Premier League games. No Premier League player has more in 2016 than him (level with Adam Johnson and Riyad Mahrez).
– Sunderland have now gone 11 Premier League games without a clean sheet, longer than any other side currently.
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