Sunderland 1-0 Liverpool: Bent And Beach Ball Get The Better Of Benitez

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Liverpool slipped to their fourth defeat of the season as Sunderland leapfrogged them in the table with a deserved, if controversial win.

After Sunderland’s heroics a fortnight ago coming within a whisker of taking three points away from Old Trafford, Steve Bruce’s Black Cats looked to go one better in their second consecutive game against ‘Top Four’ opposition, taking on Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool.
With new signing Boudewijn Zenden in the squad, and Liverpool missing key players Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, the home side would seldom get a better opportunity.

And it was a controversial strike from Darren Bent after just five minutes that gave Bruce’s side a deserved win which takes them above an out of sorts looking Liverpool in the Premier League table.

Sunderland looked lively from the outset, with Darren Bent and Andy Reid both having chances within the first two minutes, before Liverpool’s Glen Johnson hit the visitors first chance wide after a surging run down the right.

Within minutes, the home side countered through Andy Reid after a Liverpool free-kick, and after a Steed Malbranque flick-on Darren Bent did his England chances no harm whatsoever, firing past Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina to put the home side a goal ahead, albeit in somewhat controversial circumstances. The ball appeared to cannon in past Reina after hitting a Liverpool beach ball, but despite Liverpool protests referee Mike Jones allowed the goal to stand.

Liverpool responded well with chances from Martin Skrtel and Ryan Babel having an effort cleared off the line, but the Reds seemed to be struggling with a change in their system with the enforced absences of Torres and Gerrard.

Sunderland’s Malbranque continued to cause the visitors all sorts of problems through the midfield as they refused to sit back on their one goal advantage, instead looking to make it two. However the Frenchman gave away a free kick in a dangerous position twenty five minutes in, only for Brazilian Fabio Aurelio to strike narrowly wide.

Despite ample possession Liverpool often seemed to lack purpose, and with Sunderland continuing to press- Bent will have been disappointed not to have made it two after heading just wide, Benitez will have been glad to call his side in at half-time and sort things out for the second half.

Jordan Henderson came on for the home side at the break and made an impact within seconds, winning a free kick and then giving the game a further controversy as his shot appeared to be handled in the box by Skrtel, but Liverpool escaped unpunished. Bent again went close on 55 minutes, with Reina making a great save after further good work by Henderson and Kenwyn Jones.

Liverpool looked to get a grip on the game and were frustrated as Mike Jones halted their counter-attack to allow Sunderland’s Lee Cattermole treatment after a clash with Babel. Cattermole was forced off to allow new boy Zenden to make his debut against his former club, and eight minutes later Kenwyn Jones became the second Sunderland player to be stretchered off, with Fraizer Campbell replacing him up front.

Despite Liverpool upping the pressure and starting to take a degree of control over the game, the home side continued to be presented with gilt-edged chances; Bent hitting the outside of the post after rounding Reina and Malbranque taking too much time over his shot when the Liverpool defence were outnumbered. 

Yossi Benayoun, one of Liverpool’s few danger men on the day looked to make the home side rue the missed chances as his signature twists and turns produced chances for the Reds, the Israeli striking just over himself.

Benitez made the inevitable changes on 73 minutes, replacing the underwhelming Skrtel and Jay Spearing with Javier Mascherano and Andriy Voronin, but the home side continued to produce scoring opportunities, Henderson this time firing just wide.

The final ten minutes were dominated by Liverpool, with Voronin. Johnson, Dirk Kuyt and substitute David Ngog all making Sunderland goalkeeper Craig Gordon work hard, but it was all too little too late for the Reds as they stumbled to their fourth defeat of the season.

Goal

~ by footballdirecta on October 17, 2009.

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