Sunderland 2 Liverpool 2: Two Jermain Defoe penalties earn Cats deserved draw
Sunderland kicked-off 2017 with a hard-fought point against title-chasing Liverpool courtesy of two Jermain Defoe penalties.
Liverpool took the lead through Daniel Sturridge’s flick before Defoe levelled from the spot after Dider Ndong was brought down in the area.
Sadio Mane then handed the visitors the initiative after he tapped home from close range, but Defoe converted his second spot-kick of the afternoon after a handball in the area to secure a point.
David Moyes made three changes from the side that suffered defeat at Burnely as Donald Love, Jack Rodwell and Ndong started in place of Billy Jones, Lamine Kone and Victor Anichebe.
And the hosts began brightly, with Defoe forcing former Sunderland stopper Simon Mingolet into an early save with a drilled effort from the edge of the area.
The Black Cats’ current goalkeeper was soon to be tested as well, with Vito Mannone doing well to parry powerful strikes from both Sturridge and Gini Wijnaldum in quick succession as Liverpool poured forward in search of the opening goal.
They found it with 20 minutes played as Sturridge reacted quickest to flick home Dejan Lovren’s wayward volley after a corner had picked out the centre back on the edge of the box.
Liverpool’s lead was to last only five minutes though, with Defoe confidently dispatching a penalty into the bottom right corner after Dider Ndong was barged over in the area.
And the same player could have handed Sunderland the lead moments later were it not for his decision-making - the striker springing the offside trap before opting to attempt to round Mingolet, with the keeper able to claw the ball away.
It was the visitors who ended the first half strongly but they couldn't find a way past the impressive Mannone with the stopper twice denying Sturridge as he looked to double his tally.
Chances were at a premium in the early stages of the second half, although Sunderland did see appeals for a second penalty turned down after Adnan Januzaj’s cross appeared to strike the arm of Emre Can.
Mannone was still the busiest of the two goalkeepers, although saves from Can and Roberto Firmino were routine as Liverpool saw more of the ball.
And they eventually made their pressure pay as they retook the lead with just under 20 minutes remaining as Mane found himself in the right place at the right time to tap home after Sunderland defender Papj Djilobodji had inadvertently flicked the ball into the striker’s path from a corner.
But just as it looked as if the Reds had sealed all three points, Sunderland responded courtesy of another penalty.
After Sebastian Larsson’s free-kick struck a hand in the Liverpool wall, Defoe stepped up to do the necessary and sent Mingolet the wrong way.
The Black Cats soaked up some late pressure from the visitors to claim a valuable point which sees them narrow the gap to 17th place.
Sunderland: Mannone; Love, Djilobodji, O’Shea (C), Van Aanholt; Ndong, Rodwell (Manqiullo 65), Larsson; Borini, Januzaj (Khazri 79), Defoe
Subs Not Used: Mika, Honeyman, Maja, Embleton, Ledger
Goals: Defoe 25pen, 84pen
Yellow Cards: Rodwell (13), Larsson (51)
Liverpool: Mingolet; Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner (Moreno (45); Can, Wijnaldum (Origi 73), Lallana; Firmino, Mane, Sturridge (Lucas (79)
Subs Not Used: Karius, Stewart, Ejaria, Alexander-Arnold
Goals: Sturridge (20), Mane (72)
Yellow Cards: Milner (30)
Referee: Mr Anthony Taylor