Liverpool 2-2 Sunderland by James Nalton at Anfield
LIVERPOOL fans protested on Saturday against rising ticket, walking out of the ground in their thousands on the 77th minute as their side drew 2-2 with Sunderland.
Before the game supporters held up banners bearing the words: “Football without fans is nothing,” and “Enough is enough,” while the usual flag display on The Kop prior to the match was blacked out.
The only flag on show was the tribute to Owen McVeigh, a young Liverpool fan who lost his battle with Leukaemia in December. It was a poignant moment, and one which brought home the point that fans are the heartbeat of a football club, not numbers on a balance sheet.
Fan group Spion Kop 1906, who help fans organise the array of flags on The Kop, took action following the efforts of another supporters group, Spirit of Shankly, who had been working with the club to make ticket prices fairer and more affordable.
Spirit of Shankly chair Jay McKenna wrote on The Anfield Wrap fan site: “This was the opportunity to ensure the sustainability of our current and future support.
“The opportunity for the club to tell supporters they were on our side. The opportunity to say that for all the club markets itself on the back of our support, it values it.”
An expanded Main Stand, plus extra TV money, meant that the club had the opportunity to give something back to the supporters, but the fan groups were ignored when it came to the crunch as the most expensive ticket rose from £59 to £77, and season tickets went above £1,000 for the first time.
Sunderland fans applauded in agreement in a moment of unchoreographed and unprecedented supporter action between the 75th and 77th minutes. The home fans gave a rousing rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone — normally belted out in the final minutes of a game — before thousands left the stadium.
Jurgen Klopp had to miss the game, suffering from apendicitis, and while assistant manager Zeljko Buvac prowled the touchline in the manager’s absence the responsibility of taking the questions from the press post-match was left to first-team coach Pepijn Lijnders who said that “if they [supporters] want to make a statement, they have the right to make a statement.”
The home side had taken a two-goal lead in the game thanks to some excellent play from Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian scored the first with a header from a James Milner cross, and created the second for Adam Lallana. But on 82 minutes Adam Johnson sent a free kick curling around a poorly placed wall and past Simon Mignolet, who should have saved it.
Sunderland didn’t give up and capitalised on a nervous looking Liverpool side when Jermaine Defoe equalised shortly after.
“When we scored we had a bit more belief about us,” said Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce. “We might not have deserved what we got today, but we took our chances when they came and we got a very precious point.”
Both of his side’s goals came following the Anfield walkout, but the errors from Liverpool were ones which have been seen all season and the fan exodus can’t be blamed.
Lijnders echoed this when, asked whether it affected the players, he replied: “Of course not no. It changed the atmosphere in the stadium, but didn’t change our mentality.”