Sunderland boss proud in defeat at Liverpool

Sunderland's Ki Sung-Yueng celebrates after scoring against Liverpool
Sunderland's Ki Sung-Yueng celebrates after scoring against Liverpool

GUS Poyet was as proud of his players performance against Liverpool as he had been disappointed with their display at Norwich City four days previously.

The end result was the same - another away defeat - but the mood in the dressing room could not have been more different at the final whistle.

In the away dressing room at Carrow Road there had been strife and dissension but at Anfield there was satisfaction at a collective team effort which came so close to yielding an away point against a team which are now genuine contenders to win the Premier League this season.

Sunderland faced a Liverpool team playing its first home game in a month and coming into it on the back of six victories to be confronted by a Sunderland team that have five at the back but still played with two strikers up front.

“We did something nobody expected,” said Poyet. “And we asked questions of Liverpool by making it tough for them.

“I think the game was set up for a big party - maybe four or five goals for Liverpool - and everybody celebrating after the first half-hour.

“But then they tried and tried and couldn’t get the goal and they needed to do something special to get through us.

“They managed that eventually, because they are Liverpool and Steven Gerrard is special but they did not get away from us, even after scoring a second goal.”

Brendan Rodgers’ side did not match the supporters’ fervour in the early stages.

Suarez fired over a free-kick and also delivered a delightful cross with the outside of his right foot which sailed just too high for Sturridge to do anything other than head up in the air.

Joe Allen, running from deep, and Suarez again - this time cutting in from the right on a quick counter-attack - were both off-target with efforts as frustrations began to grow.

Liverpool were trying to be almost too precise in their execution of Rodgers’ plan and, as a result, the ball often overran or just bobbled out of reach.

Sunderland’s tactic of leaving two men up the field at all times drastically cut the effectiveness of Liverpool’s two full-backs, key to providing width and getting in behind their opponents, and led to Philippe Coutinho in particular trying impossible passes through the Black Cats’ massed central ranks which failed to pay off.

However, a much simpler lay-off from the Brazilian playmaker ultimately resulted in the breakthrough but Sunderland were lucky to just escape with conceding the goal.

Suarez had wriggled past Santiago Vergini and looked set to skip into the area only for the Argentinian to bring him down in the 39th minute.

Referee Kevin Friend decided former Liverpool full-back Andrea Dossena was close enough to not warrant showing the red card but Gerrard lessened the Anfield wrath on the official by dispatching the 25-yard free-kick into Vito Mannone’s top left-hand corner.

Connor Wickham, recalled from a loan spell at Leeds, forced Simon Mignolet to tip wide in front of the Kop when his shot clipped Martin Skrtel but it was another deflection at that end which proved decisive.

Three minutes after half-time Sturridge collected the ball on the right side, switched it on to his left foot and struck a shot which caught enough of Wes Brown to help it loop over Mannone.

Suarez got in the way of his strike-partner’s next effort, although he did try to redeem himself by attempting to beat the Sunderland goalkeeper at his near post with a backheel from the rebound.

Lee Cattermole hit the crossbar - a feat subsequently matched by Sturridge - before substitute Ki converted a corner with 14 minutes to go and, despite exerting some late pressure which saw John O’Shea miss a header from six yards, Sunderland remain three points from safety.

Liverpool 2 Sunderland 1

Scorer: Gerrard (Liverpool) 39, Sturridge (Liverpool 48), Ki (Sunderland) 76.

Bookings: Vergini (Sunderland) 38, Bardsley (Sunderland) 40, Bridcutt (Sunderland) 80

Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)

Att: 44,524

Liverpool: (4-1-2-1-2)

22 Mignolet 6, 2 Johnson 6, 37 Skrtel 6, 5 Agger 6, 38 Flanagan 7, 8 Gerrard 8, 14 Henderson 7, 24 Allen 7, 10 COUTINHO 8, 7 Suarez 8, 15 Sturridge 8 (sub Sterling 76, 6). Subs not used: Jones, Aspas, Moses, Sakho, Cissokho, Lucas.

Sunderland: (5-2-1-2)

25 Mannone, 2 Bardsley 6. 5 Brown, 27 Vergini , 16 O’Shea , 3 Dossena 5 (sub Colback 83 6, 26 Bridcutt 6, 33 Cattermole , 23 Giaccherini 5 (sub Johnson 61 7, 10 Wickham - A muscular presence up front. 6 (sub KI - 61 7), 17 Altidore 5. Subs not used: Ustari, Roberge, Larsson, Scocco.