After Manchester City’s win last night, Liverpool knew that they could not afford to slip up if they were to keep their title dream alive. Sunderland were the visitors to Anfield tonight.
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Liverpool 2-1 Sunderland
19.37 – Good evening and welcome to TheScore.ie’s minute-by-minute coverage of today’s Premier League clash between Liverpool and Sunderland.
19.39 – First things first, here are the teams.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Flanagan, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Gerrard (c), Allen, Henderson, Coutinho, Suarez, Sturridge
Sunderland: Mannone, Bardsley, Dossena, Brown, O’Shea (c), Vergini, Cattermole, Bridcutt, Giaccherini, Altidore, Wickham
19.42 – It is 31 days since Liverpool last played at Anfield and, in that time, they have gone from would-be title pretenders to definite title contenders.
Win tonight and they will go second again, just one point behind league leaders Chelsea.
Lose and the dream might be dead just as it looks like getting off the ground.
19.45 – And if there’s any doubt that Liverpool fans truly believe this can be their year, check out these pre-match scenes:
19.49 – You’ve probably heard this stat countless times already today but Luis Suarez has scored 29 times in the league this season.
Sunderland’s entire squad has 26.
19.52 – Amid all the talk about Liverpool’s title prospects, it’s important to remember that tonight’s result is equally as important for the visitors. Sunderland are 18th but can climb out of the relegation zone with a win tonight.
Jimmy Coonan: Probably 10.8 to Liverpool…my heart can’t take much more of this craziness
It’s as likely as anything else Liverpool have served up in recent weeks.
19.55 – There is one other game in the Premier League tonight. After 10 minutes at Upton Park, it’s West Ham 0-0 Hull.
20.01 – KICK OFF: We’re underway with Sunderland attacking the Kop end in this first half.
20.03 – 2 mins – First sight at goal for Liverpool as Glen Johnson fires well over from the edge of the box.
20.06 – 4 mins – Philippe Coutinho has an ambitious look from 25 or so yards but it’s never curling inside Mannone’s post.
20.07 – 6 mins – Ooof. Suarez lines up a free-kick on the edge of the box and gets it up over the wall… but it’s about a foot too high and over the bar.
20.09 – 8 mins – Sturridge flashes some quick feet as he makes his way into the box but he ends up just running into traffic and his shot can’t find a way through the crowd of bodies.
20.12 – Latest from Upton Park: Mark Noble has put West Ham 1-0 up against Hull from the penalty spot, with Hull keeper Allan McGregor sent off as well.
20.17 – 16 mins – Johnson tries to slip a through ball to Suarez who’s coming off the defender’s shoulder but it’s cut out before Bridcutt clears.
We’re still waiting for our first shot on target here…
20.19 – 17 mins – Suarez dinks a ball off the outside of his boot in the hope of finding Sturridge at the back post but it’s too high.
If he’d pulled that assist off, you wouldn’t have heard the end of it for a long, long time.
20.20 – 19 mins – Liverpool have eight men in the Sunderland half at my last count with just Mignolet, Agger and Skrtel minding the shop.
20.23 – 21 mins – Sunderland enjoy 30 seconds or so of possession before Bardsley’s crosses and Liverpool clear. That was exciting.
20.24 – 23 mins – I’m not sure if that’s a cross or a shot from Glen Johnson but either way, it ends up in the Anfield Road end for a goal-kick to Sunderland.
20.28 – 26 mins – Joe Allen is the next to try his luck, playing a one-two with Suarez before firing high and wide like his team-mates before him.
To Sunderland’s credit, they’ve made it very hard for Liverpool to break them down in this opening quarter. The home side have been restricted to hopeful potshots and not a lot more.
Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images
20.31 – 30 mins – Sunderland hack. Liverpool attack. Sunderland hack clear again. Liverpool attack again. Rinse and repeat.
20.34 – 33 mins – Another phase of controlled Liverpool possession on the edge of the Sunderland box but every avenue is quickly shut off by the defence until Gerrard lumps it hopefully into the box and it’s cleared away.
20.35 – 34 mins – Suarez pounces on a loose touch and possibly for the first time tonight, the league’s top scorer gets a chance to really run at the Sunderland defence. He takes the shot on from the edge of the box and, yup you guessed it, it’s wide.
20.37 – There’s a little bit of an edge around Anfield tonight. The crowd are making their frustration heard every time Mannone takes an extra second or two over a goal kick which, to be fair, is every time he gets the ball.
20.38 – 36 mins – Oh oh oh, Vergini you lucky fella. Suarez gets the defender turned and is pulled down just outside the box. The Anfield crowd are baying for red but referee Kevin Friend either feels that Brown would have got across to cover, or else he’s just feeling generous.
Having watched the replay, I’m not sure Brown was getting there.
20.39 – GOAL! Liverpool 1-0 Sunderland (Gerrard 38′) I think that’s what you call a captain’s goal. The free kick is pretty central which means Mannone can’t tell if Gerrard will put it to his left or Suarez will try to curl it inside his right post. In the end it’s the skipper who bends it around the outside of the wall with a cracking strike.
It took a while but Liverpool lead.
20.43 – 41 mins – Chance for Sunderland to hit back immediately. Connor Wickham has a go from the edge of the box and his shot takes a deflection of Skrtel and forces Mignolet to get down smartly to his right and save.
20.47 – 45 mins – Gus Poyet needs to pull Vergini aside and give him a good talking to at the break. Failing that, he needs to just take him off.
Despite being booked a moment or two ago, the Argentinian lunges in on Suarez at the edge of the box. Contact is minimal but it’s definitely a foul.
Should it have been a second yellow? You wouldn’t have argued.
20.47 – HALF TIME: Liverpool 1-0 Sunderland
20.49 – Here’s that Gerrard goal:
20.50 – And this is what it means to the red half of Merseyside!
Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images
21.02 – SECOND HALF: We’re back underway at Anfield.
21.04 – Latest from Upton Park: It’s West Ham 2-1 Hull
21.04 – GOAL! Liverpool 2-0 Sunderland (Sturridge 48′) If there were any lingering nerves in Anfield, that should help settle them. Daniel Sturridge comes back in off the right and curls a beaut past Mannone. The replay shows that it did take a nick off a defender which carried it away from the Sunderland keeper but Liverpool won’t mind.
21.05 – 48 mins – MASSIVE SHOUT FOR A LIVERPOOL PENALTY but referee Kevin Friend is having none of it!
Replay shows that Suarez was outside the box when he was clipped.
21.11 – 53 mins – For once, the telepathy of the Suarez/Sturridge partnership fails. The ball’s cut back to Sturridge on the edge of the box and is shot is goalbound before Suarez gets in the way. To be fair, there probably wasn’t a lot he could do to get out of the way.
21.15 – Here’s Sturridge’s goal:
21.17 – 59 mins – Mignolet is called into action and he’s able to pluck a cross off the head of Jozy Altidore.
21.17 – Sunderland subs: Johnson and Ki on to replace Giaccherini and Wickham.
21.18 – 61 mins – Vergini is having some night! He has plenty of time to deal with Johnson’s cross but gets himself in a total fluster and nearly ends up screwing past Mannone for a spectacular own goal. Madness.
21.20 – 62 mins – Sunderland’s subs combine as Johnson clips the ball in behind the Liverpool defence but it’s just slightly out of reach for Ki. Nice move though.
21.22 – 64 mins – Brilliant imagination from Suarez who scoops the ball over the heads of the Sunderland defenders for Coutinho to chase. The Brazilian takes it on his chest and then tries to lift it over Mannone but it’s straight into the keeper’s hands.
21.23 – 65 mins – Vergini plays Suarez onside but Bardsley is there to turn his cross behind for a corner. From Coutinho’s delivery, Sturridge heads at Mannone.
21.24 – Stats fans — Sturridge’s goal tonight means that both of Liverpool’s top scorers have 20 or more in the league. The last time that happened was in 1963/64 when Roger Hunt had 31 and Ian St John had 21.
21.28 – 70 mins – SO CLOSE for Sunderland who really should have one back. Lee Cattermole thwonks one off the bar from 20 yards out with Mignolet soundly beaten. Ki fires over with the rebound.
21.29 – 71 mins — NOW STURRIDGE HITS THE BAR! There’s a little bit less pace on Sturridge’s effort at the other end but Mannone is just as soundly beaten as Mignolet was less than 60 seconds ago.
21.31 – 73 mins – John O’Shea tracks Philippe Coutinho every step of the way and as the Brazilian slips, there’s a big shout for a penalty. There was a smidgen of contact but Coutinho had already lost his footing at that stage.
21.32 – 74 mins – Ki threatens again but Agger is on hand to slide in and put in behind for a corner.
Sunderland have looked a lot more lively since bringing on the two subs.
21.33 – GOAL! Liverpool 2-1 Sunderland (Ki 76′) Uh oh. Liverpool’s Achilles’ heel — defending set pieces — comes back to haunt them again and we’re all set for a nervy quarter-hour in Anfield. Nobody goes to meet the corner, Flanagan lets Ki run free and the Korean ducks in at the back post to head Sunderland back into contention.
21.36 – Liverpool sub: Sterling is on for Sturridge.
21.37 – 80 mins – Suarez bends another free kick towards goal but it’s just off target. There’s never much in it when he’s involved, is there?
21.39 – 82 mins – I know you’re checking your watches, Liverpool fans. Let me help.
21.39 – Sunderland sub: Andrea Dossena (“Doss the Boss” to those who remember him from his Anfield days) is replaced by Jack Colback.
21.40 – 83 mins – Phil Bardsley bursts down the right but as hearts start to rise towards mouths, his cross turns out to be a poor one.
21.40 – 84 mins – Just sayin’…
21.42 – 85 mins – I don’t want to be a negative Nancy here, Liverpool fans, but it has been all Sunderland in the last few minutes.
The possession stats back that up. They’ve had 52% since Ki’s goal.
21.42 – 86 mins…
21.43 – Liverpool have possession but twice, Johnson and Henderson surrender it far too easily.
21.43 – 87 mins…
21.44 – Free to Sunderland in a dangerous position. Colback looked like he was running out of space at the byline but goes down under Johnson’s challenge and it’s a free in.
21.45 – 88 mins — THAT SHOULD BE THE EQUALISER! Adam Johnson gets the faintest header on the free and it’s just — I mean, just — out of Altidore’s reach at the back post.
21.45 – 89 mins…
21.46 – Can an entire stadium be a bag of nerves? Anfield is right now!
21.46 – THREE ADDED MINUTES
21.47 – Philippe Coutinho is Sky Sports’ man of the match.
21.47 – 91 mins…
21.48 – Free in for Liverpool out on the wing. That’ll eat up a few more seconds.
21.48 – 92 mins… Sixty seconds to play at Anfield. It’s down the Sunderland end.
21.49 – You’ll Never Walk Alone rings out around Anfield as the clock ticks towards 93.
But Sunderland have possession…
21.49 – FULL TIME: Liverpool 2-1 Sunderland
21.50 – It’s all over at Anfield and Liverpool breathe a massive sigh of relief. It’s three valuable points that keeps their title dream alive — but boy did Sunderland make them work for it!
21.55 – Here’s how the top of the table looks tonight. Pretty sweet, eh Liverpool fans?
There’s now just one point separating league leaders Chelsea and the Reds, with City a further two back in third.
Pellegrini’s side do still have two games in hand though — win those and they’ll be at least three points clear.
21.58 – That’s all from us for tonight. The title race is still alive and there’s lots to look forward to this weekend when Chelsea go to Crystal Palace, City go to Arsenal (mmmmmmm) and Liverpool are back at Anfield against Spurs (mmmm mmmmm).
See you then.
Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images