Liverpool bounced back from their recent league upsets to claim an important 2-0 victory at home to Sunderland.
In a game where the Reds found it hard to break through the Mackems’ defence, they triumphed thanks to second half strikes from David Ngog and Yossi Benayoun.
On 52 minutes, Ngog ran onto a Steven Gerrard header to coolly slot away his first league goal for the club before in-form Benayoun added a second on 65 minutes, pouncing on an error by Sunderland keeper Marton Fulop after he parried a Ngog shot.
Sunderland though had started the brighter and should have taken the lead through Kenwyne Jones when he got through one-on-one with Pepe Reina but the keeper saved at his feet when Jones should have buried it. Liverpool grew into the game with Dirk Kuyt, operating alongside Ngog up front, testing Fulop in goal. With half-time approaching, Riera went close with Fulop again tested down low to his right hand side.
The results keeps the Reds in third place, now only four points behind league leaders Manchester United, but Alex Ferguson’s men have two games in hand. And Javier Mascherano, deployed at right back in Arbeloa’s absence drove a shot over from distance after a corner which just cleared the bar.
Benayoun went close with a header from a corner in the second half, before Ngog opened the scoring following a nice cross from the left by Riera which was headed back by Gerrard for Ngog to slot past the keeper at the Kop end.
Sunderland offered little attacking threat in the second half and Liverpool doubled the lead when Ngog controlled inside the area and volleyed over his head towards goal which lacked power but Fulop flapped at and the ball dropped for Benayoun to score an easy goal.
Substitute Ryan Babel almost made it three with a mazy run from the left, cutting inside but his shot lacked precision.
Line-ups and Stats
Liverpool: Reina, Mascherano, Skrtel, Carragher, Insua, Benayoun (El Zhar 90), Gerrard (Babel 82), Alonso, Riera, Kuyt, Ngog (Lucas 70).
Subs Not Used:Cavalieri, Dossena, Hyypia, Aurelio.
Goals: Ngog 52, Benayoun 65.
Sunderland: Fulop, Ben-Haim, Ferdinand, Collins, McCartney, Malbranque (Edwards 81), Whitehead, Reid, Leadbitter (Cisse 62), Richardson, Jones (Murphy 76).
Subs Not Used: Gordon, Bardsley, Davenport, Healy.
Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire)
Tuesday night’s other Premier League results