The Reds had a chance to cut the gap between them and league leader Chelsea yet the Black Cats had other ideas. Sunderland handed Liverpool a two all draw.
The Guardians Louis Taylor wrote: “Jürgen Klopp could not hide his frustration as Liverpool spurned a chance to close the gap on Chelsea to three points at the top of the Premier League.
Despite twice taking the lead at the Stadium of Light, Klopp’s second-placed side were restricted to a draw thanks to two penalties from Jermain Defoe as David Moyes’s Sunderland collected a potentially precious point in their struggle to avoid relegation.
“In this moment it is hard for me to accept but I have to be professional,” said Klopp, who fears Chelsea will extend their five-point advantage at Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night. “Maybe I do not look like the best loser in the world it but today two penalties against us feels not good.”
Not that a man who saw first the impressive Daniel Sturridge and then Sadio Mané put Liverpool in front, contested the legitimacy of those spot‑kicks converted by Defoe. Instead Klopp’s beef was with the decision to award Seb Larsson the free‑kick which prefaced the second penalty, after Defoe had tumbled easily in the face of Lucas and Emre Can’s combined challenge. With Mané subsequently handling Larsson’s free-kick, the stage was set for Defoe’s late equaliser.
“I have no idea when a side of mine last conceded two penalties,” lamented Klopp, who had earlier seen Didier Ndong brought down by Ragnar Klavan but believed his own side could have had a penalty following Larsson’s perceived tug on Nathaniel Clyne. “The first one of course you can give it, both players are there. The second was clear handball. Two right decisions. But we all know in a football game a lot of situations like this can happen and the referee doesn’t spot them. Sometimes he can have a good view of it sometimes not. Both decisions are right but it feels bad. It feels so difficult.
“We scored the second goal, it felt good, it felt deserved. Then I would say no foul, no free-kick – there was no contact. Then handball, 2-2, I must be honest it doesn’t feel good. Sunderland got a point because of two penalties in a game. It is usually hard to get one. But to get two! The free‑kick, that was harsh and hard to accept but obviously I have to accept. It’s not the worst mistake in the world by the referee [Anthony Taylor] but it’s so hard to accept. Referees have a really hard job – but two penalties. Ah, that’s hard.”
If his countenance was softened slightly by the news the ankle injury which caused Sturridge to limp off in the second half does not appear overly serious, Klopp was clearly irked by having to play two games in less than 48 hours as the festive fixture programme reached peak frenzy. “Maybe we can play better football,” he said. “But not with a one-day break. But I have to accept. It’s like the fixtures, I cannot change anything. We have to accept the results of the other teams, there is a long way to go. We have a long trip home. Sorry for my mood.”
It seems unlikely he and Moyes shared any new year humour as Sunderland’s manager was still clearly miffed by Klopp having dubbed Sunderland “the most defensive” team he had faced when Liverpool won 2-0 at Anfield in November. “I’m feeling we weren’t too defensive today,” Moyes said. “I thought we did well today. We got at Liverpool, put them under pressure, 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.”
Asked if he had any sympathy with Klopp, he demurred. “I think things go against you,” he smiled. “He should see what it’s like at the bottom of the league. I could say we should have had another penalty for handball [against Can].”
Moyes singled out the “brilliant” Defoe for praise as well as goalkeeper Vito Mannone who shone in goal following a shaky display in the 4-1 defeat at Burnley on Saturday. Sunderland’s manager indicated he would not be getting any money to spend in the transfer window this month after owner Ellis Short turned a deaf ear to his pleas. “If that changes in January we’ll all get a surprise,” he said.
Asked to pick a title winner from Liverpool and Chelsea he sat on the fence. “I couldn’t pick one of them,” he said. “It would be hard for me to pick Liverpool where I’ve come from – but I think they both have a big chance.”