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    Sunderland 2-2 Liverpool Match Report

    Sadio Mane went from hero to villain in the space of 12 second-half minutes as Liverpool were held by a spirited Sunderland side in a thrilling game at the Stadium of Light.

    The Senegalese international thought he had given the visitors all three points when he scored with 18 minutes remaining but duly gifted Sunderland a route back into the game by handling from Seb Larsson's free-kick.

    Jermain Defoe dispatched his second penalty of the match to give Sunderland a share of the spoils and halt Liverpool's winning run in the Premier League that would have been extended to five matches.

    The result reduced Chelsea's lead at the top of the Premier League to five points and it remained that way after the London side's 13-match winning run finally came to an end with defeat at White Hart Lane.

    Both Sunderland and Liverpool went into Monday's game with less than 48 hours rest from their New Year's Eve fixtures but it was David Moyes' team who were the most affected by having two matches in such close proximity.

    Lamine Kone, Billy Jones and Victor Anichebe all missed out for the home side through injury, while Jordan Henderson's heel problem meant the Liverpool skipper was denied the chance to play against his former club.

    Despite being on a run of four defeats from their last five matches, Sunderland started the game brightly and created the first opportunity when Defoe had an early sight of goal but his drilled effort from 25 yards was well saved by Simon Mignolet.

    Liverpool also could have taken an early lead when Daniel Sturridge, starting instead of Henderson, was picked out by Mane but the England international's right-footed strike was palmed away by Mannone with no-one on hand to turn home the rebound.

    Seconds later, Georginio Wijnaldum, who scored the winning goal against Manchester City two days earlier, tried his luck from the edge of the penalty area but was also denied by Mannone, who made an acrobatic save to tip the effort over the bar.

    The seesaw pattern of the game, which had been set early on, continued throughout the contest with Jack Rodwell's stinging effort forcing Mignolet into action before Liverpool responded when Lallana's cross was nearly turned into his own net by Larsson.

    From the resulting corner, the visitors took the lead through Daniel Sturridge's second Premier League goal of the season, although the way the ball arrived at the the head of the England international owed a little to luck.

    Milner's outswinger found Dejan Lovren, whose effort on goal was horribly miscued but fell perfectly for Sturridge to guide his header past Mannone from five yards.

    Sunderland's response was swift, although their efforts in finding a way back into the game were dealt a helping hand when Ragnar Klavan clipped Didier N'Dong inside the penalty area allowing Jermain Defoe the chance to step up from the spot.

    The former Tottenham striker made no mistake by stroking the ball into the bottom left-hand corner, past the reach of Mignolet who had dived the correct way but was beaten by pace and precision.

    Sunderland's confidence began to grow in the final minutes of the half and they would have taken the lead had Simon Mignolet not produced a superb last-ditch intervention to stop Defoe when one-on-one, while Fabio Borini also struck wide from the rebound.

    Despite having been dominated from a territorial perspective by Liverpool throughout the first-half, Sunderland always remained a threat and gave as good as they received when it came to creating clear-cut opportunities.

    Both sides had chances to take the lead early in the second-half, with Mane unable to make the required contact having looked a certainty to head home Nathaniel Clyne's cross and both Borini and Defoe having efforts blocked at the opposite end.

    Liverpool started to increase their intensity as the game passed the hour-mark when Sturridge's give-and-go with Lallana conjured up an opportunity for the England striker but he was denied by the legs of Mannone from close-range.

    The pressure finally told, however, from the resulting corner when substitute Alberto Moreno's set-piece was flicked on by N'Dong to present Mane with a golden opportunity from two yards which he coolly dispatched.

    Liverpool looked like they had done enough at this stage to finally break Sunderland's resistance and to significantly reduce Chelsea's lead at the top of the league, but there was to be one last sting in the tail six minutes from the end.

    After substitute Lucas Leiva had conceded a soft free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, Mane blocked Seb Larsson's set-piece with his arm to offer Sunderland a route back into the match from 12 yards.

    Jermain Defoe emphatically struck the penalty in the same position as his previous spot-kick, this time sending Mignolet the wrong way to rescue a point for The Black Cats with his 11th goal of the season.

    There was still time for Liverpool to create one last opportunity, deep into injury time, but Lallana's strike from 20 yards was clawed away at full-stretch by Mannone.

    Liverpool will reflect on this game as being two points dropped in their pursuit of Chelsea at the top of the Premier League table, especially as they had taken the lead twice and had led with six minutes remaining.

    While Jurgen Klopp's side were never at their best, they created enough chances to win the match and would have done so had Mane not handled the ball when he instinctively stuck out an arm to block Larsson's free-kick.

    The point nevertheless edged Liverpool closer to Chelsea in the league table, with the gap remaining at five points following Tottenham's shock 2-0 win over the 2015 Champions at White Hart Lane on Wednesday night.

    The Reds have an eventful week ahead of themselves, starting with Sunday's visit of Plymouth in the FA Cup before away matches against Southampton and Manchester United in the EFL Cup semi-finals and Premier League respectively.

    Sunderland, meanwhile, were good value for a point and could even have taken all three had Defoe converted the opportunity that fell his way late in the first-half, which would have given his team a 2-1 lead at the break.

    Despite only having 29 per cent of the possession, The Black Cats caused problems for the Liverpool defence throughout the game and twice gave the perfect response to falling a goal behind.

    Jermain Defoe, making his 450th Premier League appearance, proved once again just how valuable he is to the Sunderland side and just how imperative it is that Sunderland keep hold of their talisman in the January transfer window amid interest from West Ham.

    The result enabled David Moyes' team to narrow the gap from fourth-bottom Crystal Palace to a single point, with Swansea's 2-1 win at Selhurst Park on Tuesday denying The Eagles the chance to extend it further.

    After Saturday's FA Cup third round meeting with Burnley at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland return to Premier League action on January 14 when they entertain Stoke, who currently sit 11th in the table.
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    Item Reviewed: Sunderland 2-2 Liverpool Match Report Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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