Roy Kelly's analysis: Sunderland show spirit to pick up point against Liverpool

Will the real Sunderland please stand up?

By The Newsroom
Monday, 2nd January 2017, 10:06 pm
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 11:42 am
Jermain Defoe scores from the spot
Jermain Defoe scores from the spot

Admittedly there were mitigating circumstances at Burnley, but how do the Black Cats go from Saturday’s dreadful defeat at Turf Moor to bagging a point against Liverpool?

And don’t be lured into believing Jurgen Klopp’s hard-luck tales of foul-ups from the officials - David Moyes’s side was well worthy of a share of the spoils.

Yes, the free-kick which led to Jermain Defoe’s second emphatic penalty was a soft one. But referee Anthony Taylor missed a handball just as blatant, which could have given Defoe a hat-trick of spot-kicks and an amazing win.

However, that might just be being a little greedy, but certainly a draw against a side of such quality just shows what Sunderland are capable of.

This performance was disciplined, passionate, whole-hearted, bodies on the line stuff, everything that was missing at Turf Moor.

And this has to be the benchmark for the Black Cats – there can be no more Burnleys, Swanseas or Stokes if Sunderland are to retain their Premier League status for yet another season.

Their two-star performers were at either end of the park. Defoe displayed incredible nerve, not to mention skill, to put away his two spot-kicks to reach 11 goals for the season.

And, between the sticks, Vito Mannone was in great form. The Italian suffered a torrid return at Burnley but yesterday he was superb, making save after save and proving dominant in the latter stages when his side needed him most.

But it was not just about two men – the nine in between were pretty sensational too!

John O’Shea and Papy Djilobodji looked strangers at Turf Moor, but yesterday they were on the same wavelength, while outside them, Donald Love and Patrick van Aanholt, were just as good against a talented attacking unit.

Jack Rodwell came into the side for his first appearance in 10 games. Numbers often follow Rodwell around, namely the negative stat that the Black Cats have never won a game he has started, 33 it may now stand at.

But there was no negativity from the midfielder who was positive throughout, whether that was going forward or going into a tackle, and he formed a strong central pairing with the equally impressive Didier Ndong.

Moyes went with a 4-4-2 and the duo put in a tremendous effort, with the Duracell-like energy of Fabio Borini on the right and Seb Larsson on the left.

Adnan Januzaj played off Defoe and he was instrumental for the Cats, helping set up the opener and playing one of the passes of the match to set up the leading scorer who, remarkably, did not take it.

The home fans in the 46,494 crowd would probably have been preparing to watch this Bank Holiday battle through their fingers after the drubbing at Burnley, but the faithful were soon on the edge of their seats as Defoe had a long-range effort blocked and Rodwell a decent shot saved by Simon Mignolet.

However, Liverpool play some excellent football as 46 goals in the Premier League prove. But they came up against a great keeper, Mannone making diving saves from Daniel Sturridge (twice) and Georginio Wijnaldum.

Larsson went close to finding the net, his own net, in the 19th minute. But from the corner Sturridge did.

Dejan Lovren drove the ball into the ground and it sat up nicely for the England striker to head in from close range.

Sunderland’s reaction was perfect, Januzaj playing a neat ball to Ndong, who made a rare drive into the box.

It was worth the wait as he went down under a Reds sandwich from Ragnar Klavan and Wijnaldum. Mr Taylor pointed to the spot and Defoe fired his 24th-minute spot-kick low into Mignolet’s bottom right corner.

It should have been 2-1 to the hosts three minutes later as Januzaj opened up the away defence with a through ball to Defoe who tried to go round Mignolet only for the Belgian to get his hand to ball. It fell nicely to Borini, but his shot was deflected wide.

Play was even enough, with Mignolet saving from Rodwell and Mannone making a good stop from Sturridge.

After the break, the hosts were denied a stonewall penalty when Emre Can handled just after Borini and Defoe had shots blocked.

Mannone came to Sunderland’s rescue in the 71st minute, when he kept out a Sturridge shot after a neat one-two with Adam Lallana.

But the goalie was powerless to keep out the Reds second from the resulting corner.

Sadio Mane looked offside but the ball had flicked Djilobodji’s head and the forward had the easiest of jobs to poke the ball in.

At 2-1 down with 19 minutes left and legs getting heavier, was it all over?

Sunderland refused to lie down and they deserved the little bit of luck they got for the 84th-minute leveller.

The free-kick won by Defoe looked harsh to say the least but when Larsson’s free-kick struck Mane’s outstretched hand, it was an easy decision for Mr Taylor to make.

Where would Defoe put his penalty? The same place was the answer, his fierce spot-kick went into Mignolet’s bottom right corner as the ex-Cats keeper went the other way. It was his 11th, and perhaps his most vital goal of the season, as Sunderland showed what they are made of.