Thursday, 3 January 2013

Liverpool v Sunderland

After returning to winning ways against QPR, Liverpool hosted Sunderland hoping for consecutive wins and thankfully the illness to manager Brendan Rodgers had gone allowing him to return to the dugout.

Before kick-off, new signing Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea for £12m was introduced to the fans and will wear the number 15 shirt.

A strong setup of 4-3-3 including a front trio of Sterling, Suarez and Downing started well and could have led as early as the 12th minute as Downing tested Mignolet after a well-taken free kick.

The breakthrough came on 18 minutes after a nice pass from Gerrard found a running Suarez who turned and looped forward a ball for Sterling who scampered towards goal and chipped the ball over Mignolet for a superb lob to put Liverpool 1-0 up.

Sunderland had great chances to equalise via McLean who wasted two shots with only Reina to beat and Kilgallon hit a half-volley which saw a superb reflex save from Reina who seems to be back to form.

Sunderland's failed efforts proved costly when Suarez brushed off a foul from Cuellar to drive a low finish past Mignolet and put Liverpool two goals clear and in firm control.

It could have been worse for Sunderland before the break as Downing latched onto a cross from Henderson but failed to find the net and left Sunderland still in the game.

Sterling could have bagged a brace early in the second half but shot wide but the win was all but sealed in the 52nd minute as a spectacular 60-yard pass from Gerrard found Suarez who controlled before smashing past Mignolet to secure his second brace in four days and scoring his 18th this season to beat his total for the previous season.

Gerrard's assist was his eighth in a season which he seems to be back to his talisman status and now sits top of the league's assist table above Rooney and Mata.

Rodgers could see the game was wrapped up and exchanged Sterling and Henderson with Allen and Suso and the changes nearly led to a fourth goal as Gerrard's volley rebounded off Johnson to force a good save from Mignolet.

The Belgian was a the star for Sunderland despite conceding three goals as without him it could have been far more and he was called into action again to deny Suarez from a hat trick.

The record books opened with the final Liverpool sub as Carragher's entry in place of Skrtel meant he moved to outright second in the Liverpool all-time league appearances list behind Ian Callaghan who will take some catching.

The final whistle went and Liverpool had won comfortably for the second time in a week and with another clean sheet to be proud of.

Next up is a trip to Mansfield Town of the National Conference in the FA Cup third round and a game which could be a cupset with Liverpool's past against non-leaguers not exactly being rosy, Havant leading 2-1 at Anfield being a classic example.