Christian Benteke struck early in the second half to hand Liverpool a 1-0 win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday.
- Sunderland 0 Liverpool 1
- Firmino hits the post
- Benteke slots home the winner
- Reds climb to seventh
The first half finished goalless despite plenty of attacking industry from both sides. Roberto Firmino had the two best chances of the half for Liverpool, the first of which saw the ball bounce awkwardly off his knee and out of play when he was put through on goal by Philipe Coutinho, before some individual endeavour ended with a shot that would have found the net but for a fingertip save from Vito Mannone pushing it onto the post.
Liverpool broke the deadlock very early in the second half through Christian Benteke. It started with a ball inside from right-back Nathaniel Clyne, which got a touch from Adam Lallana, taking it into the path of the lurking Belgian to apply the finish.
Both sides got forward at every opportunity in a relatively open start to the game. Nathaniel Clyne stung the palms of Vito Mannone with a rasping drive from range, but the Reds had the best chance of the opening stages when space opened up on the counterattack and Philippe Coutinho, charging down the centre, played in Roberto Firmino on the left. But the former Hoffenheim star's first touch let him down, bouncing up onto his knee and out for a goal kick.
Jermain Defoe proved to be a hazard in the opening stages, and forced Simon Mignolet into a good save when he found some space for a left-footed drive that the Belgian goalkeeper had to push over the crossbar. At the other end, Liverpool's forward players were regularly knocking at the door and Coutinho came close with a free kick that struck the top netting, though Mannone seemed to have it covered.
Out of nowhere the woodwork was rattled in the 25th minute. Firmino picked up possession around the Sunderland box and looked to be going nowhere, but after cutting inside he shifted it onto his right foot and sent a splendid shot towards the far post, and it would have gone in but for the fingertips of Mannone pushing it onto the upright.
Fabio Borini then came close for Sunderland against his former club. Patrick van Aanholt did well on the left flank to keep possession and pick out the Italian, who turned onto his right foot and went looking for the bottom corner, sending his effort skimming just wide.
Mannone was called into action again in the 35th minute when Firmino powered a header at goal from Clyne's cross, while at the other end Mamadou Sakho chopped down Defoe on the edge of the box, giving the Black Cats a great free-kick opportunity that Adam Johnson sent into the stands.
After 47 minutes of goalless first-half action Liverpool went ahead through Christian Benteke in the second minute after the restart. A ball inside from Clyne on the right flank, via a touch from Adam Lallana, wasn't intended for the Belgian, but when it fell to his feet,in the box he made no mistake with the finish past Mannone.
Sunderland had another chance to go level when van Aanholt found Borini again, and the former Chelsea prodigy did well to find space and unleash a shot, but it was straight at Mignolet.
Benteke and Coutinho combined well to set up a shooting opportunity for the latter, with Billy Jones making an important block. A few minutes later and the Black Cats almost capitalised when Firmino's clearance from a corner had height but no distance, sending it up and straight down into the Liverpool box. Mignolet couldn't reach it, producing a scuffle that threatened Liverpool's narrow lead.
Sunderland took the initiative in the closing stages, pushing forward looking to salvage a point, but Jordon Ibe missed a great chance for the game's second goal when the Reds counterattacked and the recently-introduced substitute found himself in plenty of space, but after working the angle he could only blaze his effort over the bar.
Benteke then should have had his second when he was puth through one-on-one with Mannone after a clever one-two with Firmino, but the Italian keeper, who had been fantastic in the first half, came out to deny the former Aston Villa star his brace, in what proved to be the last big chance for either side.