Liverpool coach Pep Lijnders does not feel the club’s players were affected by walkout protests at Anfield, despite the hosts spurning a two-goal lead late on to draw 2-2 against Sunderland on Saturday.
Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana put Liverpool firmly in control, in the absence of manager Jurgen Klopp, who underwent surgery to have his appendix removed on the same day.
Thousands of Liverpool fans exited the stadium in the 77th minute in protest at a new ticket pricing initiative from the club that angered many on Merseyside this week, the scheme including top-priced tickets in the Main Stand that will cost £77.
Against a backdrop of a sparse Anfield, Adam Johnson and Jermain Defoe salvaged Sunderland an unlikely point, but Lijnders denied his players were impacted by the protest.
“We have one of best supporter groups in the world. If they want to make a statement they have all the right to do it,” he told reporters.
“It didn’t [affect the players]. It changed probably the atmosphere in the stadium but it didn’t change our mentality.”
Prior to falling behind, Sunderland sat deep as Liverpool struggled to break their opponents down.
And frustrations were clear both before Firmino’s opener and after Defoe’s equaliser, although Lijnders praised the side for their efforts.
“Normally the scoreboard doesn’t lie but today it did. For 82 minutes we played really well and became better throughout the game, especially after the first goal,” he added.
“We were good, we dominated the game. The last 10 minutes we started walking back, we dropped off too much and in those longer balls they are closer to our goal. That’s the problem.
“The players did excellent, with all the circumstances…the overall feeling, after the game, without emotion, is very well done.
“You see clearly, today was a good performance, it was. The way we dominated in opponents’ half and the way we won the ball back and found the free player.
“We have to stay calmer and use our skill more to outplay opponents and play the true pass. The anxiety wasn’t in the last 10 minutes but in the final third. Overall, from a performance point of view, it was okay.”
Lijnders also revealed Dejan Lovren suffered cramp prior to his first-half withdrawal, while Joe Allen is set for a scan on his hamstring.