LIVERPOOL, England — Relegation-threatened Sunderland came from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday with manager Juergen Klopp missing and many home fans having left before the visitors rescued a point.
Klopp was absent from the Anfield dugout with a suspected bout of appendicitis, and first-team duties were left to his two trusted assistants, Zeljko Buvac and Peter Krawietz.
Neither of them, both with Klopp at Borussia Dortmund, could have envisaged a draw with 10 minutes remaining as the home side had established a 2-0 lead.
Nor could the many supporters seen leaving in the 77th minute, with that two-goal advantage still intact, as they staged a protest against rising ticket prices.
Liverpool looked set for victory after Roberto Firmino scored one and created another in a lively second half following a forgetful first.
The first period will best be remembered for the loss of defender Dejan Lovren and midfielder Joe Allen, although Daniel Sturridge's name on the substitute bench for the first time in two months, will be the one positive on an otherwise sour day.
James Milner crossed for Firmino to head past Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone in the 59th before the Brazilian international set up Adam Lallana for the second in the 70th. The 24-year-old Firmino robbed Billy Jones in possession before racing toward goal and squaring for Lallana to tap in.
From that point, a home victory looked certain but goalkeeper Simon Mignolet allowed Adam Johnson's free kick in the 82nd to creep in at his near post. The Belgian goalkeeper was left ruing that error when striker Jermain Defoe lashed in the equalizer with two minutes remaining.
Wahbi Khazri, making his first start for Sunderland since joining from French side Bordeaux in January, found Defoe on the edge of the area and he expertly held off defender Mamadou Sakho before turning and firing past Mignolet.
"You think your day is over when you are 0-2 down at Anfield. But we fought back with two quality goals and got a point by not giving up," Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce said. "It was 'never say die' until the end. When we went two down it looked like the fear had left us and we played better with the ball".
That point leaves Sunderland second from bottom with 20 points, four adrift of regional rival Newcastle, which moved out of the bottom three following a 1-0 win over West Brom also Saturday.
Liverpool has 35 points, level with Everton following the Toffees' impressive 3-0 win at Stoke.