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Liverpool looking up after Sunderland win

Sunderland 0 - Liverpool 1

By Martin Hardy

Published 31/12/2015

Liverpool’s Christian Benteke (far right) celebrates scoring his side’s winner against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light last night to move level on points with Manchester
United and seventh in the Premier League table, going into the New Year
Liverpool’s Christian Benteke (far right) celebrates scoring his side’s winner against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light last night to move level on points with Manchester United and seventh in the Premier League table, going into the New Year

Liverpool, who changed their manager in October and have won two of their last five games, moved to within six points of third place in the Premier League last night. Nothing summarises the present campaign much better than that.

A second successive 1-0 victory, given to them at Sunderland through Christian Benteke's goal 22 seconds into the second-half, moved them level with Manchester United. They are a point off fifth.

Read more: Vote: The Belfast Telegraph's best sporting moments of 2015 - now it's your call

They did not look like a Champions League side in the making, but they could end up there. West Ham are up next.

Manager Jurgen Klopp could at least point to three excellent saves from Vito Mannone for the margin of victory not being greater. He excelled twice to deny Firmino in the first-half and then Benteke at the death.

The Belgian was sent clear from the halfway line to bear down on Mannone, but he blocked the effort with his leg.

That had Klopp hopping out of his technical area in frustration. That said much. It was not dominant, but it could have been far more commanding and impressive.

Klopp still celebrated with his players at the finish, in front of the travelling Liverpool supporters, and as the league table showed, with good reason.

A goal in the first-half would most likely have made the victory more emphatic. However, the closest Liverpool came was in the 25th minute.

Sunderland again marshalled their back lines well but Firmino was patient and let fly from 25 yards with a finely struck right-foot shot that fizzed past Yann M'Vila.

Christian Benteke of Liverpool celebrates with team-mates Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Liverpool at Stadium of Light on December 30, 2015 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Christian Benteke of Liverpool celebrates with team-mates Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Liverpool at Stadium of Light on December 30, 2015 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Liverpool's English midfielder Jordan Henderson (R) shakes hands with Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp (L) as he leaves the field after being substituted during the English Premier League football match between Sunderland and Liverpool at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, north east England, on December 30, 2015. AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 30: Jeremain Lens of Sunderland battles for the ball with Emre Can of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Liverpool at Stadium of Light on December 30, 2015 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Liverpool's German midfielder Emre Can (C) gestures to referee Kevin Friend after a foul for which the referee showed a yellow card during the English Premier League football match between Sunderland and Liverpool at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, north east England, on December 30, 2015. AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp (R) hugs Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho (L) as Coutinho leaves the field after being substituted during the English Premier League football match between Sunderland and Liverpool at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, north east England, on December 30, 2015. AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Liverpool's German midfielder Emre Can (L) beats Sunderland's English midfielder Lee Cattermole (R) to a header during the English Premier League football match between Sunderland and Liverpool at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, north east England, on December 30, 2015. AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Liverpool players crowd around Liverpool's Zaire-born Belgian striker Christian Benteke to celerbate after Benteke scored the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Sunderland and Liverpool at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, north east England, on December 30, 2015. AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Liverpool's Christian Benteke (right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the Barclays Premier League match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday December 30, 2015. See PA story SOCCER Sunderland. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.
Liverpool's English midfielder Adam Lallana (back) jumps on the back of Liverpool's Zaire-born Belgian striker Christian Benteke (front) after Benteke scored the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Sunderland and Liverpool at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, north east England, on December 30, 2015. AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 30: Jurgen Klopp, manager of Liverpool looks on before the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Liverpool at Stadium of Light on December 30, 2015 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Liverpool's Christian Benteke (centre) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the Barclays Premier League match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday December 30, 2015. See PA story SOCCER Sunderland. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.
Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho in action during the Barclays Premier League match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland. PA
Christian Benteke of Liverpool attempts to shoot at goal under pressure from Sebastian Coates of Sunderland during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Liverpool at Stadium of Light on December 30, 2015 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Liverpool's Zaire-born Belgian striker Christian Benteke (L) is shown a yellow card by referee Kevin Friend during the English Premier League football match between Sunderland and Liverpool at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, north east England, on December 30, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp (R) and Sunderland's English manager Sam Allardyce (L) take their places for the English Premier League football match between Sunderland and Liverpool at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, north east England, on December 30, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
Jurgen Klopp, manager of Liverpool arrives for the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Liverpool at Stadium of Light on December 30, 2015 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Sam Allardyce, manager of Sunderland gives a thumbs up to fans as he arrives for the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Liverpool at Stadium of Light on December 30, 2015 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 30: a fan poses outside the stadium before the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Liverpool at Stadium of Light on December 30, 2015 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 30: Roberto Firmino of Liverpool arrives for the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Liverpool at Stadium of Light on December 30, 2015 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 30: Costel Pantilimon of Sunderland arrives for the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Liverpool at Stadium of Light on December 30, 2015 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 30: Jordan Henderson of Liverpool arrives for the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Liverpool at Stadium of Light on December 30, 2015 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 30: Alberto Moreno of Liverpool arrives for the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Liverpool at Stadium of Light on December 30, 2015 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 30: Simon Mignolet of Liverpool arrives for the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Liverpool at Stadium of Light on December 30, 2015 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Initial viewing suggested the ball had simply crashed off the near post. Only after watching replays did it become apparent that Mannone had produced a superb save.

The former Arsenal goalkeeper had to excel again in the 36th minute. This time Nathaniel Clyne found the unmarked Firmino 10 yards from goal. He headed to Mannone's right but again the Italian reacted to parry the ball away.

There would be further opportunities for the visitors. Jordan Henderson saw a goal-bound shot blocked.

Not that Sunderland were without opportunities of their own. Their boss Sam Allardyce had admitted before the match that the first target was not to concede before half-time.

They did that thanks to Mannone, but there was a fine save from Simon Mignolet after 15 minutes, when Jermain Defoe was allowed to slide across the edge of the Liverpool penalty area before unleashing a left-foot shot.

Fabio Borini spun well, following good work from Patrick van Aanholt, and hit a low drive narrowly wide. He looked like a player with something to prove, given how long he waited for an opportunity at Anfield before agreeing to move permanently to the Stadium of Light.

Those saves from Mannone, and the effort that Allardyce had demanded to get to half-time without conceding, were forgotten within just 22 seconds of the second-half.

Clyne played an angled through ball which Adam Lallana clipped into the path of Benteke. From 10 yards the centre forward shot low into the bottom corner.

How Sunderland, without their two first-choice defenders in John O'Shea and Younes Kabul, could have done with a more commanding presence.

They have agreed a deal with Lorient to sign 26-year-old Ivory Coast centre-half Lamine Kone, with the player expected to agree terms. He will be busy. Sunderland had won three of their previous 34 Premier League games when the opposition have finished with 11 men. That put Liverpool's performance in context.

Coutinho drew another save from Mannone in the 71st minute, cutting in on his right foot and shooting from 20 yards, before Benteke's late miss.

SUNDERLAND: Mannone, Jones, Coates (Yedlin 72), Brown, Van Aanholt, Cattermole, M'Vila, Rodwell (Watmore 30), Johnson (Lens 63), Defoe, Borini.

Subs not used: Pantilimon, Graham, Toivonen, Beadling.

LIVERPOOL: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno, Henderson (Lucas 61), Can, Lallana, Firmino (Toure 90), Coutinho (Ibe 83), Benteke.

Goal: Benteke 46

Subs not used: Bogdan, Smith, Teixeira, Randall.

Man of the match: Mannone (pictured)

Match Rating: 6/10

Referee: Kevin Friend

Attendance: 45,765

Belfast Telegraph

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