Sunderland 0-1 Liverpool
Premier League / Stadium of Light / Saturday, 10th January 2015
Goals: Markovic (8)
Sent-off: Bridcutt 49
By Henry Jackson
Brendan Rodgers made just two changes from the Wimbledon game, bringing Alberto Moreno in for Javier Manquillo and replacing Rickie Lambert with Fabio Borini.
Youngster Jordan Rossiter was named on the substitutes’ bench, while Raheem Sterling continued to be rested.
Markovic somehow didn’t win a penalty in the opening few minutes, with Wes Brown clearly fouling the on-rushing Serbia star.
It was a confident start by the Reds, who enjoyed much of the ball, and it didn’t take long for Rodgers’ men to be in front.
The persistent Markovic bundled his way into the penalty area, after referee Craig Pawson had allowed Liverpool an advantage after a foul on Borini, before poking the ball past Costel Pantilimon. It was the perfect start.
Gerrard’s side-footed effort deflected past the post after 23 minutes, while the skipper’s free-kick from out wide was tipped over by Pantilimon. Markovic then produced a sensational scissor-kicked effort which came back off the crossbar. The 20-year-old had been fantastic.
Henderson’s terrific half-volleyed effort hit the post eight minutes before the interval, but the 24-year-old was adjudged to have handled the ball prior to shooting.
Gerrard then twice came close the doubling his side’s lead, while Borini just failed to convert having rounded Pantilimon. Emre Can‘s through-ball in the lead-up was magnificent.
Liverpool led at the break, and it had been a superb performance. The only negative was that they weren’t further ahead.
Half-time: Sunderland 0-1 Liverpool
Gerrard was replaced at half-time because of injury, with Dejan Lovren coming on for the captain. Can pushed into midfield.
Markovic dragged an effort wide immediately after the break, and after 49 minutes Sunderland‘s afternoon went from bad to worse. Liam Bridcutt was sent-off for a second yellow card, having fouled Can.
Adam Johnson’s stunning strike came back off the bar, and Martin Skrtel made a vital interception to deny Patrick van Aanholt an undeserved equaliser.
The Black Cats actually improved with 10 men, and it was vital that Rodgers’ side didn’t get complacent and allow them back into the game.
Can switched to right wing-back, with Markovic slotting into Gerrard’s attacking midfield role. It seemed rather baffling as to why Rodgers would move his best performer on the day.
Coutinho fired an effort wide after a slick counter-attack midway through the second-half, and the quiet Borini was replaced by Mario Balotelli.
The Brazilian then tested Pantilimon after a nice interchange with Markovic, while at the other end John O’Shea almost pounced from a corner. Victory was far from sealed with 15 minutes remaining.
Liverpool bossed the remainder of the game though, earning an important three points in the process. It had got a little nervy, but they had dominated from start to finish. It’s now just one defeat in 13 for the Reds.
Man of the Match: Lazar Markovic
Liverpool: Mignolet, Can, Skrtel, Sakho, Moreno, Henderson, Lucas, Markovic, Gerrard (Lovren 46), Coutinho, Borini (Balotelli 67).
Subs not used: Ward, Enrique, Lambert, Manquillo, Rossiter.
Sunderland starting XI: Pantilimon, Vergini, O’Shea, Brown, Van Aanholt, Bridcutt, Larsson, Gomez, Johnson, Giaccherini, Wickham.