Milner 90+1' [pen]
This team does not ever stop. And there's one man responsible for that.
Let's go back a little bit. We're just past the hour mark. It's 0-0. Again.
Liverpool are dismal in front of goal for the second-straight match, dominating tenor, tempo, and possession but held scoreless, flailing against a double-parked double-decker bus. It's even worse than at Southampton, a better side and away from Anfield, with Liverpool not only erratic with their shooting but misplaying multiple passes when in the final third. And Liverpool are without their best player, Coutinho stretchered off after half an hour with what looked to be a metatarsal injury or ankle fracture or something really, really bad.
And Liverpool's just misplayed another final third pass, well overhit by Henderson – who absolutely was not the only guilty party – when trying to find some way through nine defenders. You can hear the frustration around Anfield. You can hear audible groans. You can hear the inescapable increasing doubt, the belief that 'damn, it really is gonna be another 0-0.'
Jürgen Klopp isn't having any of it.
What a man https://t.co/dHQOZXEUgz— LFCMostar (@LFCMostar) November 26, 2016
And Anfield becomes a cauldron of noise until Liverpool finally, somehow, superlatively make the breakthrough. What could have been – and, in previous seasons, what would have been – ever-building frustration and the game tepidly ebbing away becomes a deserved and needed 2-0 win to return Liverpool to the top of the table, at least for the time-being.
Liverpool still required a moment of magic, when Divock Origi – who came on in place of Coutinho – blasted past Pickford from no angle, an unconscionable finish from wide left after Liverpool again pressed and scrambled and pushed but were continually denied, blocked off, and forced to start again.
Sunderland did Sunderland, Moyes did Moyes. 27 Liverpool shots, and not one clear-cut chance until Milner's penalty in injury time to seal the game, with Mané sprung on the counter-attack by Origi and taken down by Ndong. Denayer had man-marked Coutinho wherever he went while the Brazilian was on the pitch, and afterwards, sat in the middle of three midfielders who sat in front of four deep defenders. Anichebe, ostensibly a burly striker you hit long balls towards, mainly played a second left-back. Sunderland set up to bend but not break, and Sunderland could well have achieved that if not for Origi's witchcraft.
To be fair, Liverpool do have history scoring from that angle against Sunderland in front of the Kop.
As if we needed more evidence that this is a different Liverpool team than in seasons past, look no further than Liverpool's manager today. That's the passion Liverpool, and Anfield, have too often lacked. He's creating an actual, honest-to-goodness team and this team is a machine and this machine does not will not can not break down often. This machine needs every cog to function, and that includes the crowd. This machine will need to perform at similar, if not better, levels as more and more sides decide that this is the only way they might be able to stop Liverpool.
The headlines and the credit will mainly go to Klopp and Origi, but spare a thought for Loris Karius. Today also could have gone as bad days have gone in the past if not for two crucial saves, on Pienaar in the 17th and Watmore in the 68th, as Liverpool's defensive organization went to all sorts of hell but Karius made the necessary stop, quick off his line in both situations. It goes without saying that going down 0-1, whether in the first or second half, before Liverpool made it 1-0 could have made today very Burnley.
That Liverpool again struggled in the final third is assuredly not a good thing. Nor is Coutinho's injury, which at least appears to be less debilitating than it initially appeared. Liverpool need to put more of its shots on-target, Liverpool needs to be smarter and simply better in the final third.
But Liverpool again demonstrated why they remain apparent top-four and title contenders. As in past matches, they controlled possession and limited opposition chances, but today they truly did it through little more than sheer perseverance and self-belief.