Struggling Sunderland faced high-flying Liverpool in the Premier League today with both sides desperate for the points. Sunderland, coming off the back of a 3-1 defeat at Manchester United and a hugely disappointing 4-1 loss at Burnley on New Year’s Eve, needed a result to ease their relegation worries, whilst the Reds were looking to keep up with Chelsea at the top of the league.
Sunderland made three changes. Jack Rodwell, Donald Love and Didier Ndong replaced Billy Jones, Victor Anichebe and Lamine Koné. Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp gave Daniel Sturridge his first start since October. Ex-Sunderland player Jordan Henderson missed out through injury.
Sunderland – Mannone, Love, van Aanholt, O’Shea, Djilobodji, Larsson, Rodwell, Ndong, Borini, Januzaj, Defoe
Liverpool – Mignolet, Milner, Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Can, Firmino, Mane, Sturridge
46494 attended the first game at the Stadium of Light in 2017, the majority looking for a Sunderland response from the disappointment of the Burnley game. However, Liverpool began the game the better, Vito Mannone in the Black Cats goal keeping his side in the game. The Reds dominated their hosts in the opening periods and Mannone produced three good saves to keep the scores level.
The corner which came soon after the third of Mannone’s saves produced the first goal of the game. The corner was headed from the edge of the area, Sunderland’s defence remained static and Sturridge scored from close range. At this point there was only ever going to be one winner.
The Black Cats, however, seemed to respond to going behind and looked a different team. Six minutes after going behind the home side were level. Didier Ndong surged into the box, attempted to go through Wijnaldum and Klavan and in the process was brought down. The referee had no hesitation in giving the spot kick.
Jermain Defoe, Sunderland’s main scoring threat, made no mistake from the spot, sending the ball into the bottom corner. Mignolet in the Liverpool goal dived the right way but hand little chance.
Moments later, the home side should have taken the lead. Defoe beat the offside and was one-on-one with the keeper. Mignolet stood his ground and denied the striker. Fabio Borini followed up but could not score the goal which looked a certainty seconds earlier.
Chances kept coming at both ends before the break. Jack Rodwell’s volley was held by Mignolet and at the other end Sturridge forced Mannone into a good save. With the score at 1-1 at half-time, both sides had had opportunities to take the lead.
Liverpool made one change at the break. Alberto Moreno coming on for James Milner. Chances soon came around. Nathaniel Clyne missed an opportunity to score early on and then Sadio Mané could not rise high enough in the six-yard box to convert as Liverpool looked to dominate.
Soon after, Borini and Defoe had chances and then the referee seemed to deny Sunderland a clear penalty when Adnan Januzaj’s chipped pass was blocked by the arm of a Liverpool defender. Replays suggested that Sunderland could easily have been given another penalty.
Both sides were giving plenty of effort as the half wore on but both sides were struggling to get past the opposition’s defence and get themselves in front, until Mannone produced a good save from Sturridge and from the resulting corner, Liverpool scored. The corner found its way through to Mané, who was free in the six-yard box, to score a simple tap in. The Black Cats once again found themselves looking for a positive response to a poor goal to concede.
On 83 minutes, Seb Larsson fired in a free kick and the ball struck Mané’s hand. The referee was forced to give Sunderland their second penalty of the match. Jermain Defoe once again coolly fired the ball into the corner of the net. Liverpool can have no complaints about the penalty and Sunderland deservedly drew level. They now had a great chance of collecting at least one vital point.
Liverpool responded but found the Sunderland defence determined not to concede again. With five minutes added on Liverpool were camped in their opponents’ half. Mannone denied the Liverpool attack on several occasions as Sunderland drew closer to a precious point. Soon after the final whistle blew. Full-time: Sunderland 2-2 Liverpool.
After recent games and performances, Sunderland will be the happier of the two sides. The Black Cats will look on this as a point gained and it will give them confidence going forward. They performed much better than many expected and although there were negatives, there were many positives to work on too. Liverpool will look on this as two points dropped in a game many thought they would win with relative ease.