Sunderland 1 Liverpool 0: Lessons from a deserved Black Cats win
What did we learn from Sunderland's narrow 1-0 victory over Liverpool at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon?
Liverpool’s nightmare at the Stadium of Light: Part II
Who can forget Darren Bent’s famous ‘beach ball goal’ against Liverpool in 2009? Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina will certainly remember it, and the Spanish international’s rotten luck at the Stadium of Light continued as Liverpool slumped to a disappointing defeat on Saturday. The Reds were lacklustre, lacked invention, and were careless in possession. Sunderland deserved their victory despite their fortunate winner. Fraizer Campbell’s effort in the 56th minute was parried by Reina onto his right post, with the ball ricocheting off the goalkeeper’s head, back onto the post, before Sunderland’s on-loan striker Nicklas Bendtner scored from close-range.
All change in Liverpool’s back four
Jamie Carragher has been a fantastic servant to Liverpool over the past three decades but the centre-half is rightly no longer guaranteed an automatic place in Kenny Dalglish’s first-team. The 34-year-old was at fault for Robin van Persie’s first goal at Anfield last week, and an unconvincing display saw the vice-captain dropped for the trip to Sunderland. Dalglish started Uruguayan defender Sebastián Coates alongside Martin Skrtel, but the 21-year-old struggled, and his indecisiveness spread throughout a makeshift Liverpool defence. The Reds were fortunate to concede just once in 90 minutes – their defence was in disarray with Martin Kelly deputising for first-choice right-back Glen Johnson, and Jose Enrique’s current dip in from continuing.
McClean brings back old school wing play
The influx of European and South American players has changed the perception of the modern-day winger. Premier League managers expect players deployed in the wide midfield positions to bring plenty of flair, a dose of unpredictability and of course a vital end product. Sunderland’s James McClean is a throwback to the traditional British winger – the Republic of Ireland midfielder has pace in abundance, boasts a direct style of play, and is not afraid to whip in a first-time cross. Comparisons to Stoke City’s great Stanley Matthews, or Liverpool’s Billy Liddell may be fanciful, but it’s a welcome reverse back to an old style of football which is greatly missed.
Henderson’s understated start to life at Anfield
Jordan Henderson returned to the Stadium of Light for the first time since quitting the Black Cats and moving to Liverpool in a £20m move last summer. Despite enduring a meek start to his Anfield career, the Sunderland youth graduate still retains the support of the Reds faithful, largely due to his industrious performances. The 21-year-old has a professional attitude on the pitch, but often lacks an incisive pass, or sprinkling of flair visibly absent from a one-dimensional Liverpool midfield. Touted as a possible long-term replacement for captain Steven Gerrard, Henderson has been afforded time to bed into the side – but the England Under-21 international will be expected to deliver next season.
Bendtner shines away from the Emirates
When Bendtner left Arsenal to go on a season-long loan at Sunderland, the Danish striker expressed his desire to never return to The Emirates. The 24-year-old has managed four goals since moving to the Black Cats – hardly prolific. But Bendtner is in good form, dispatching a penalty in the Tyne-Wear derby last Sunday, and scoring the winner against Liverpool on Saturday. His work ethic, coupled with his willingness to lead the Sunderland front-line, often single handedly, has been an encouraging sign for Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill. He may yet get his wish and avoid a return to the Gunners. If the Dane can continue his goalscoring run, and develop a partnership with Campbell, then O’Neill will surely be tempted to sign the forward on a permanent deal.