The last thing that Jürgen Klopp did before he left the Stadium of Light was to apologise for his own mood, and it was bleak indeed at times from a manager whose side are unbeaten in their last six games and finish their hectic Christmas schedule in second place.
The Liverpool manager knows that on Wednesday night Chelsea can open up an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League if they beat Tottenham at White Hart Lane and although his team have taken 13 points from their last 15, he will fear that is not enough.
For that reason, one assumes, there were sighs aplenty and arguments picked as he reflected on a victory that became a draw when Jermain Defoe converted his second penalty of the afternoon.
Klopp did not disagree with referee Anthony Taylor’s award of either of the spot kicks that Defoe dispatched, he just felt that in the general course of things one rarely gets all the penalties one deserves, let alone two in one game.
There was also some quibbling over the free-kick that led to the second penalty – and a general reluctance to accept that sometimes these things happen.
“We have a long trip home,” he said when it came to the time to wrap things up. “Sorry for my mood.”
He was not explicit in his condemnation of a fixture programme that served up three games in seven days but the Liverpool manager pointedly said that he had no idea what he could reasonably expect of his players in such a punishing run of matches.
The scorer of the first Liverpool goal, Daniel Sturridge, limped off injured and James Milner was replaced at half-time, although Klopp, already without the injured Jordan Henderson, did not seem unduly concerned. There will be plenty of rest time dished out over the FA Cup third-round weekend.
As for David Moyes, this was the response he had hoped for from his Sunderland team after the defeat at Burnley which proved so crushing. There is no love lost between him and Klopp, who was fiercely critical of what he perceived as Sunderland’s defensive tactics at Anfield earlier this season, and Moyes wondered aloud if he would be treated differently were he a “German manager”.
For Klopp, there was no desire to criticise Sadio Mané, who scored his side’s second goal and then gave away the penalty for Sunderland’s second when he reached out an arm in the defensive wall lined up against Sebastian Larsson’s free-kick. Klopp was angry that a foul was given against Defoe for the award of the free-kick, and so it went on.
“We scored the second goal – it felt good, it felt deserved,” Klopp said. “Then I would say no foul [on Defoe], no free-kick. I saw it again and there was no contact. Then [Mané’s] handball, 2-2, I must be honest it doesn’t feel good.
“Sunderland got a point because of two penalties in a game. What do you usually have to do to get a penalty? [Or] to get two?”
He was particularly upset that there was no foul given for an infringement minutes earlier on Sturridge which would have given Liverpool a promising free-kick. “It’s not the worst [referee’s] mistake in the world,” he said.
As for Mané’s handball, the Liverpool manager was scathing of any suggestion of blame, claiming it was “a reflex”.
Others might be less generous about what the Senegal striker was trying to do.
T“In this moment it is hard for me to accept but I have to be professional,” Klopp said. “Obviously it [the title race] is not finally done. Maybe I look like not the best loser in the world.
“I have no problem with that. Two penalties against us feels not good. Usually I like to talk about football. It is difficult today.”
Without the injured Lamine Koné and Victor Anichebe, and Billy Jones through suspension, Moyes’s team started this game well. Their goalkeeper, Vito Mannone, restored in Jordan Pickford’s absence, was excellent when Liverpool created opportunities of their own.
Sunderland scored from the penalty spot, Defoe stroking the ball in after a foul on the impressive Didier N’Dong by Ragnar Klavan who, had he not brought down the midfielder, might well have seen the job done by his team-mate Georginio Wijnaldum. The two of them formed two sides of a quickly closing gap that N’Dong tried to dash through and was clipped by Klavan.
Defoe should have scored again two minutes after his penalty when Adnan Januzaj’s fine throughball left him with just the goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to beat, which the Englishman failed to do.
Liverpool had scored when Sturridge had redirected Dejan Lovren’s volley into the ground past Mannone on 19 minutes.
Sunderland held firm in the second half until Sturridge and Adam Lallana combined well for the former to force a save from Mannone. The ensuing corner flicked off the head of Papy Djilobodji and thence to Mané lurking at the back post to score.
Klopp changed formation again, bringing on Divock Origi and then Lucas, but Liverpool could not quite shut Sunderland down.
It was Lucas and Emre Can whom referee Taylor penalised for what he saw as a foul on Defoe.
Mané poked out an arm in the wall at Larsson’s free-kick and Taylor gave his second penalty of the day while Klopp fulminated on the touchline.
If Tottenham win on Wednesday it may not seem quite so bad for the Liverpool manager.