Mass Anfield walkout not to blame for late collapse against Sunderland, insists Liverpool coach

Thousands of Liverpool fans staged a mass walkout after 77 minutes in protest at rising ticket prices at Anfield next season
Thousands of Liverpool fans staged a mass walkout after 77 minutes in protest at rising ticket prices at Anfield next season
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The mass walkout by thousands of Liverpool fans wasn't to blame for their side's late collapse against Sunderland.

That is the view of Reds first-team coach Pepijn Ljinders, who was standing in for manager Jurgen Klopp after the German was taken to hospital earlier in the day to have a successful appendix operation.

Vito Mannone makes an important early save

Vito Mannone makes an important early save

Second-half goals from Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana appeared to have put the home side in control but, after thousands of supporters' left their seats in the 77th minute in protest over the rising cost of attending matches next season, Sunderland struck back with late goals from Adam Johnson and Jermain Defoe to snatch a point.

But Ljinders believes fans were well within their rights to stage a ticket price walkout and it did not cause the team to throw away their 2-0 lead.

"We have one of the best supporters groups in the world so if they want to make a statement, they have the right to," said Ljinders afterwards.

"It changed the atmosphere in the stadium, but not our mentality.

"We have a group who are young with loads of quality and potential.

"It is up to us to create a style that gets further and further and, over time, you realise winning is a logical result of development.

"For 82 minutes we played really well. We were good to be honest. We dominated the game, could always find a free player and create spaces between the lines, but in the last 10 minutes we started walking back.

"It is always a collective problem, we drop off too much. The players did excellent, but they know the circumstances.

"We felt we were in control, then one moment changes everything, but there were still eight or 10 minutes where you have to be calm."

Ljinders felt his Liverpool side were full value for their 2-0 lead, with Sunderland under the cosh for much of the game.

But Johnson's 82nd minute free-kick gave them a late lifeline and Defoe took full advantage seven minutes later when Wahbi Khazri - making his full Sunderland debut - played the former England striker in and he finished emphatically past Simon Mignolet.

Ljinders added: "Normally the scoreboard doesn’t lie.

"[On Saturday], it did, in my opinion. For 82 minutes, we played really well and we became better throughout the game, especially after our goal.

"Normally, if you score early then the game gets easier. In the last 10 minutes we dropped off too much and let them play longer balls.

"With those longer balls, they are closer to our goal and that’s why the free-kick [for Sunderland’s first goal] 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, keep moving the ball into the final third, so when you lose it you can counter-press and stay higher up the pitch.

"Overall, if you look at it from a performance point of view and how we analyse different lines, sectors etcetera, it was okay – the problem was the game wasn't 82 minutes, it was 95."