Sunderland 0 Liverpool 1: Cats need SOS saviours in January window

Vito Mannone
Vito Mannone
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Sunderland's saviours will need to arrive in the January transfer window after the Black Cats suffered a fifth defeat on the spin to remain engulfed at the heart of the drop zone.

Despite a better display of commitment from Sam Allardyce's side against Liverpool, the outcome was the same for second bottom Sunderland, who remain seven points adrift of safety.

After the three previous games when Sunderland had conceded a total of six goals inside the opening 22 minutes, the Black Cats waited until the second half to produce a snail-paced start.

Just 22 seconds after the restart, Sunderland gave Christian Benteke the opportunity to decide the encounter after a dire lapse in concentration.

Sunderland were indebted to a couple of excellent saves from Vito Mannone in the first half, yet they had chances at the other end with Jermain Defoe and Fabio Borini both going close.

But after Benteke's goal so early in the second half, Sunderland couldn't find a way back into the encounter, with Allardyce requiring reinforcements who can make an instant and dramatic impact.

Sunderland started off in far more positive and competent fashion than in any of their previous three games, and came close to breaking the deadlock in the 15th minute.

Defoe cut inside off the right, made a yard for himself on the edge of the area and struck a left-foot shot which was tipped over the bar by Simon Mignolet.

But Sunderland had Mannone to thank for keeping the scoreline goalless 10 minutes later after a wonderful finger-tip save to deny Roberto Firminho.

The Brazilian produced a superb shot from nowhere 25 yards out, when there seemed to be nothing on, but Mannone got the slightest of finger-tips on the ball to push it onto the post.

Allardyce was then forced into an early change, with Jack Rodwell going off injured and Duncan Watmore taking the place of the £10million man.

Borini fired a yard wide on the turn from the left-hand side of goal in the 33rd minute after being fed by Patrick van Aanholt's square pass.

Mannone then denied Firminho again after parrying the Liverpool frontman's header from Nathaniel Clyne's cross from the right-hand by-line.

But after such a positive first half, Sunderland fell behind within 30 seconds of the restart, as they gifted Liverpool the advantage.

Clyne's ball forwards was flicked on by Adam Lallana through to Christian Benteke, the wrong side of the Sunderland central defenders, and the Belgian tucked it beyond Mannone.

Allardyce's men tried to muster a response - Borini shooting straight at Mignolet from the left-hand side of goal.

Sunderland suffered another injury blow with 20 minutes to go when Sebastian Coates limped off, leaving Wes Brown as the only recognised centre-half on the pitch for the Black Cats.

Watmore had a late opportunity when Firminho inadvertently sent a volley skywards inside the Liverpool area from a Sunderland corner.

The Black Cats substitute met it on the volley in a crowded penalty box, but it was blocked on the goal-line.

Liverpool substitute Jordan Ibe should have sealed it with two minutes to go, but fired over from 12 yards, with the Sunderland defence unable to contain him.

Benteke then had an even better chance in stoppage time when he went clean through, but his effort was blocked by Mannone.

Sunderland: Mannone, Jones, Brown, Coates (Yedlin 72), van Aanholt, Cattermole, M'Vila, Rodwell (Watmore 30), Johnson (Lens 63), Borini, Defoe. Subs: Pantilimon, Beadling, Toivonen, Graham. Booked: Lens (86)

Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Sakho, Lovren, Moreno, Can, Henderson (Lucas 61), Lallana, Coutinho (Ibe 83), Firmino (Toure 90), Benteke. Subs: Bogdan, Randall, Smith, Teixeira. Booked: Benteke (19), Can (58), Moreno (77)

Attendance: 45,765