Analysis: Liverpool draw could be just the spark Sunderland need to survive

Patrick van Aanholt celebrates at the final whistle
Patrick van Aanholt celebrates at the final whistle

It was admirable that Liverpool fans delivered such an emphatic message to the club's power-brokers by walking out in their thousands at ticket prices.

When Premier League clubs are being delivered such ludicrous sums from the new television deal next season, there is no excuse for leaving a big hole in the bank balance of Joe Public to watch a game of footy.

But those undecided supporters inside Anfield must surely have been encouraged towards the exit with Liverpool in cruise-control against a Sunderland side taking another step towards relegation.

If Sunderland didn't already have a foot in the Championship at that stage, then they were certainly dipping their big toe in the water.

Ordinarily, back-to-back defeats against Premier League heavyweights Manchester City and Liverpool would not provide a fatal blow to a team's chances of remaining in the top flight.

But with Sunderland playing catch-up in the battle to remain alive, Sam Allardyce's men couldn't afford to come away empty-handed as those sides above them increased the safety buffer.

Even now, with the gap to fourth bottom Newcastle standing at four points, Sunderland are still facing an uphill battle to be playing Premier League football next season.

But they've given themselves a prayer; a lifeline that the Great Escape could be on... again.

Psychologically, the manner of the comeback could be just the spark that Sunderland need too.

Allardyce's game-plan had been clear - put men behind the ball, frustrate the hosts and then try to nick a winner in the last 20 minutes.

Once Roberto Firminho headed home the opener though, the horrible isolation of Jermain Defoe up front looked to have back-fired badly on Sunderland.

Liverpool eased through the gears and Sunderland had no answer, well except to give the hosts another, as Billy Jones - who surely needs taking out of the firing line - was needlessly caught in possession.

But whether it was the fan protest, Sunderland's persistence, Liverpool taking their foot off the gas or the travails of ex-Black Cats keeper Simon Mignolet, Allardyce's men came away with something for their efforts.

Thanks to that late double from Adam Johnson and then Defoe - who provided a worrying injury scare in stoppage time - there is some life still in Sunderland's bid to remain in the Premier League.

They will head into next weekend's visit of Manchester United with a spring in their step.

Sunderland are still breathing as a Premier League force... just.