Liverpool were never going to smash Sunderland - it would have been too obvious of a plot line. No, they just had to grind their way to a 2-0 lead only to come painfully close to throwing it all away against one of the league's worst teams. In other words, typical Liverpool.
In all honesty the overall football wasn't bad from the Reds, and the attack still produced some jaw dropping moments. However, the finishing touches, passes, and shots all lacked quality for much of the match, especially from Luis Suarez who had a rare night off. For some reason, Liverpool took an uncharacteristically high number of long shots, none of which seemed to come anywhere near the intended target.
The lineup was situated as it's been for the last few weeks, with the only talking point being the decision to put Philippe Coutinho at the head of the diamond. Coutinho's night ranged from good to great, and he set up Suarez to earn a free kick that Gerrard in turn deposited around Vito Mannone for the first goal. Speaking of which, Gerrard was in prime form until he tired at the end of the game, distributing the ball well from his withdrawn role. In front of the captain, Jordan Henderson played next to Joe Allen, and both players put in a solid shift.
Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel were massive, and neither player seemed to put a foot wrong. Meanwhile, Liverpool's fullbacks produced two strange performances characterized by both highlights and lowlights. John Flanagan followed up an excellent first half with a second half that reminded us that he's only 21. He was caught ball watching on a Sunderland corner, and Ki (who proved a game-changing sub for Gus Poyet) headed into an empty net. Glen Johnson began the game looking bright and active, but he was often pulled way out of position when Sunderland counter attacked. Johnson also conceded a silly free kick outside the box late on in the match that turned into a goalscoring chance for the Black Cats.
After Sturridge's deflected shot put Liverpool up 2-0, the Reds had some chances to put the game away that they failed to convert, and they disappointingly gave Sunderland life when they backed off over the final 20 minutes. Fortunately a nervous but encouraging Anfield crowd helped their team over the finish line as Liverpool continued their unbeaten run in 2014. Another win, and we're now only a point behind Chelsea as the title race tightens up even further. With Arsenal drawing Swansea, third place seems extremely attainable if league hopes crumble.
|Shots (On Target)
-Kevin Friend wasn't all that bright.
-On a more prolific night, this could have been the blowout Liverpool were seeking. The opportunities were certainly there.
-Mignolet wasn't tested too much but he did make one good save early on when a Connor Wickham deflected shot caused trouble.
-Jozy Altidore was garbage.
-That Vergini guy was also pretty poor. Almost scored a laugher of an own goal and easily could have been sent off in the first half.
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