'Our performance was pleasing until final 10 minutes'
Pepijn Lijnders felt Liverpool's performance deserved more after two goals in the final 10 minutes saw Sunderland snatch a 2-2 draw at Anfield on Saturday afternoon.
Roberto Firmino scored one and set up another for Adam Lallana to give the Reds a cushion in the Barclays Premier League contest, only for the visitors to respond late on.
Adam Johnson converted a low free-kick to provide hope for Sam Allardyce’s team, who completed an unexpected comeback when Jermain Defoe fired home with a minute left.
Jürgen Klopp was absent from the dugout for the game, with the German undergoing a successful operation due to a bout of appendicitis.
First-team development coach Lijnders therefore fielded questions at the post-match press conference and outlined why the display had pleased the coaching staff until the closing stages.
He said: “Normally the scoreboard doesn’t lie. Today, it did, in my opinion. For 82 minutes, we played really well and we became better throughout the game, especially after our goal.
“You felt we needed a goal to make the combinations quicker and to move the ball clear into the final third. 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 and create spaces between the lines.
“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.”
Liverpool forced Black Cats goalkeeper Vito Mannone to make several saves between the goals by Firmino and Lallana, having squandered a handful of chances in the first half.
And Lijnders admitted composure in such situations is an area requiring improvement.
“We dominated in the opponents’ half and the way we were able after each loss of possession to win the ball back in a short period, then again find a free player and keep the ball for longer periods,” said the coach.
“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, sectors etcetera, it was OK – the problem was the game wasn’t 82 minutes, it was 95.”
The Reds had to make two substitutions in the first half as Dejan Lovren and then Joe Allen were replaced by Kolo Toure and Jordon Ibe respectively due to injury.
Lijnders said: “Lovren felt cramp two or three times in the same position. [It was] very light so it was just a precaution to come off because it was in the same spot.
“Allen was fatigued just before half-time and the scan has to show what comes out of that tomorrow.”