By Jonathan Carroll
Brendan Rodgers watched his side scrape a deserved win over lowly Sunderland on Wednesday evening. The win was fully deserved but the reds made it difficult for themselves by inviting pressure late on. A stunning Steven Gerrard free-kick in the first half and a John Barnes-esque curler from Daniel Sturridge made it 2-0 early in the second half. Ki Sung pulled one back for Sunderland who threatened late on through Adam Johnson but John O’Shea failed to direct his header on target.
Sunderland set the tone early on by putting ten men behind the ball. Luis Suarez and Sturridge found it difficult to find space as Gus Poyet’s men shut down the space in behind. Philippe Coutinho won possession in the Sunderland half and looked to set Suarez in on goal but he was brought down by Santiago Vergini. It should have been a red card but referee Kevin Friend failed to take the necessary action and issued a yellow. Consistency is an area where the FA and the referee association may want to address before next season.
Steven Gerrard curled home a spectacular free kick to lift the roof off Anfield. Tension lifted. The reds started to play with fluency. They looked more relaxed and now Sunderland were forced to come out and attack if they wanted to take anything from the game. Sturridge’s magnificent curling effort made it 2-0 as the Kop again let a roar up that transcended to the eighties. Liverpool were cruising.
Poyet brought on Adam Johnson and Ki-Sung Yeung in an attempt to increase their attacking options and Johnson helped do just that. Yeung nodded home after Jon Flanagan was caught ball watching and Sunderland were back in the game. It made for a nervy final twenty minutes. There was almost an air of inevitability that an equalizer would come in some shape or form but once again the mental strength and fortitude of this Liverpool team was tested and once again they passed the test.
Tottenham Hotspur will visit Anfield on Sunday looking to derail the reds title bid. The London club have looked anything but solid under Tim Sherwood and an early goal for Brendan Rodgers’ men could see the reds pile the misery on Spurs. Seven games to go, seven more big tests of character. Whatever the outcome the reds have over achieved this season and Brendan Rodgers has shown what he is capable of as a coach. Its highly encouraging given that this team has improved solely because of Rodgers and his coaching. There is a lot to be optimistic about as a Liverpool supporter right now.
15 Sturridge (Sterling – 77′ )
09 Iago Aspas
02 Bardsley Booked
03 Dossena (Colback – 83′ )
27 Vergini Booked
23 Giaccherini (Johnson – 61′ )
10 Wickham (Ki – 61′ )
Referee: Kevin Friend