Liverpool obeyed the pragmatic instructions of manager Jurgen Klopp in a 1-0 win at Sunderland where quality football was at a premium and there was an element of good fortune in a decisive goal scored by Christian Benteke.
As Liverpool ended the first half of the Premier League season, the result was all that mattered to Klopp, who ordered his team to go toe-to-toe with a Sunderland team fighting to avoid relegation.
“The manager has tried to drum into us that sometimes we’ve got to be dirtier, fight a bit more and play teams at their own game,” said Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana, who admitted there was luck involved in the goal.
Lallana diverted Nathaniel Clyne’s pass towards Benteke after only 22 seconds of the second-half and the Belgian striker scored for the second successive match.
“I don’t think I meant the flick to go directly into Christian’s path but sometimes you need the rub of the green, especially at tough places like this,” Lallana said.
Liverpool should have scored more in a game when Sunderland lacked an attacking edge, yet Klopp was still satisfied with a victory that lifted them into seventh place in the Premier League, five points from a Champions League place.
He has seen his side draw level with Manchester United, but believe Liverpool still have a crucial psychological advantage.
He said: “Both of us are on 30 points and at this moment Liverpool don’t feel too bad, but at Manchester United the atmosphere is not the best.
“You can see how football is sometimes. We wanted 30 points and we got them perfect. This is not the best we can do, we know this, but we had to fight.