Premier League - Liverpool battle for Sunderland draw
Sat, 25 Sep 16:58:00 2010
Having crashed out of the Carling Cup to Northampton on Wednesday, all eyes were on Roy Hodgson's ailing side, but after Michael Turner's candidate for gaffe of the season gifted Dirk Kuyt an early goal, they seemed on course to bounce straight back.
But a Darren Bent double either side of the break threatened to compound their woes as the hosts struggled to impose themselves on a game that was being bossed by an impressive Sunderland side.
Yet, as is so often the case, Steven Gerrard again bailed his side out with a 64th minute equaliser to set up a thrilling finish during which Liverpool could even had snatched all three points.
That would have been unfair on Sunderland, who contributed much to the game and might even have come away from Merseyside with all three points under their belt had Turner's epic error not got them off to the worst of starts.
Liverpool midfielder Kuyt returned from injury earlier than expected and it was the Dutchman who was on hand to benefit from Turner's moment of madness.
Liverpool were gifted the lead in just the fifth minute after a free-kick was awarded to Sunderland midway inside their own half. Turner opted to nonchalantly backheel the ball back to his keeper Simon Mignolet, but only succeeded in knocking it weakly in the Belgian's general direction. Fernando Torres was on it in a flash, squaring to Kuyt to slot home into an empty net.
Sunderland players vociferously protested, claiming Turner had simply given the ball back to Mignolet for him to take the free-kick, but after consultation with his assistant, referee Stuart Attwell allowed the goal - every bit as bizarre as Darren Bent's infamous 'beach ball' goal between these two sides last season - to stand.
Torres had earlier had a well-executed volley from close range disallowed for offside and early signs suggested that Liverpool might be able to put their midweek Carling Cup humiliation firmly behind them.
But Sunderland are not an easy team to play, and Steve Bruce's side were not ready to roll over and play according to the hosts' script.
Nor, indeed, were Liverpool entirely compliant in making their lives easy after their early good fortune, and Gerrard's mistimed back-header on 18 minutes very nearly gifted Bent an equaliser on 18 minutes.
Bent was not to be denied for long though and he levelled things up from the spot seven minutes later after Ahmed Elmohamady's cross struck Christian Poulsen on the arm.
Bent doubled his and Sunderland's tally three minutes into the second half with a well-taken diving header from Nedum Onuoha's cross into the six-yard box. It was Bent's third penalty of the season as he continued his excellent strike rate against top clubs - he has now scored eight against Big Four opposition since the start of last season.
Sunderland were good for their lead and the visitors, who enjoyed some neat passages of passing play, dominated large parts of the second half. But it was always a slender one and as long as Gerrard is in the Liverpool line-up, there will always be a threat.
Having hauled Liverpool back into contention with a brace at Manchester United last weekend, Gerrard again pulled his side back onto level terms with the equaliser on 64 minutes. The Reds skipper, who did not enjoy his best game, swooped with a firm header from a Torres cross which Turner had failed to clear effectively.
The goal finally put wind in Liverpool's sails and they finished the game the stronger of the two sides, substitute David Ngog, twice, Torres, Glen Johnson and Dan Agger deep into injury time all going close to grabbing a later winner.Mike Hytner / Eurosport