Origi saves lacklustre Liverpool
Sub's wonder strike lifts Anfield, but Coutinho's injury major worry for Klopp's side
(Divock Origi 75, James Milner 90+1-pen)
Like Liverpool, Divock Origi was going nowhere.
Like his teammates, the substitute had drifted to the fringes of the game.
The Belgian was out wide on the left and the Reds were almost out of time.
So Origi dropped a shoulder, sold a couple of stepovers, curled a stunning shot inside the far post and killed off Sunderland's resistance this morning (Singapore time).
The face on the clock read 75 minutes. The face of the Kop was one of sublime mayhem.
Sweet title dreams are often made of lucky escapes like this.
Until Origi scored, the sound of silence around Anfield was second only to the distinct, squeaky sound of the wheels coming off.
Liverpool had lost Philippe Coutinho and were in danger of losing the plot.
His sudden absence made the heart grow fonder for the Brazilian.
His first-half injury robbed the Reds of their attacking impetus.
Without their creative compass, Liverpool had lost their sense of direction.
After the goalless draw against Southampton last week, Liverpool were looking light on ideas and a little ragged.
Even with Coutinho on for the first 34 minutes, the Reds laboured to knit together the attacking patterns that led to 17 goals in five previous home games.
Without Coutinho, the hosts started to fray around the edges.
Juergen Klopp's line-up was reasonably settled, but struggled to overcome Sunderland's 1-9-1 formation.
And that's not a criticism of David Moyes' packed bus garage. He wasn't great at winning games at Manchester United, but it's often forgotten how effective he was at not losing them at Everton.
Sunderland's defensive structure was as regimented as it was resolute. Even Victor Anichebe was dragged towards the left side of midfield, leaving the ageless Jermain Defoe to toil alone up front.
And the rudimentary tactics almost worked.
Sunderland often had 10 men behind the ball, but the lack of imagination was more discernible among their opponents.
A Dejan Lovren header and a speculative long-range strike from the centre-back pretty much summarised the Reds' goal threat in the first half.
Even Liverpool's deliveries were strangely out of sorts. Long, angled balls towards the penalty spot were early Christmas presents for the towering duo John O'Shea and Lamine Kone.
Liverpool's front three are hardly renowned for their aerial capabilities and the sad departure of Coutinho hardly helped.
The Brazilian's injury appeared horrific. A juddering contact with the ball and the turf left his foot flapping beneath his ankle like a flag in the breeze.
The prognosis doesn't look good for the playmaker.
His sad exit on a stretcher deflated both his teammates and the crowd. Origi came on, and initially failed to improve the mood.
Sunderland boasted the kind of impenetrable wall that Donald Trump's dreams are made of. Even Defoe dropped back, further improving the visitors' discipline.
The quiet crowd desperately needed a Liverpool employee to rouse them from their jittery slumber, so Klopp took on the role of rabble-Scouser.
In a bizarre but entertaining scene, he screamed and swore at the Anfield faithful, scolding his paying customers for their lack of noise.
Ridiculously, the German's theatrics worked. The crowd responded. So did his players.
Within minutes, the reawakened Reds broke once again and fed Origi down the left. He picked an extraordinary moment to score his first goal of the season.
In the last minute, Origi then released Sadio Mane in the box and the Senegal forward was clumsily brought down. James Milner wrapped up the points from the spot.
Liverpool earned their victory, but when the euphoria wears off, their attention will turn to Coutinho's injury.
The Reds need their irreplaceable artist back as soon as possible.