Six things we have learned from Sunderland's encouraging draw with Liverpool

Sunderland laid the ghosts of Turf Moor to rest somewhat with an impressive, battling 2-2 draw against Liverpool at the Stadium of Light.

Monday, 2nd January 2017, 8:42 pm
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 11:42 am
Vito Mannone in action against Liverpool

The hosts were good value for their point, even if they were indebted to Vito Mannone for a string of excellent saves early in the first half.

With two penalties given and a number of others turned down by Anthony Taylor, there were plenty of talking points to get stuck into.

Here’s what we learned from an encouraging afternoon on Wearside...

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Januzaj is a treat to watch when he plays like this.

Januzaj’s delightful run to set up Jermain Defoe at Turf Moor counted for nothing but the Belgian picked up where he left off here.

He lit up Sunderland’s play in the first half and there were so many moments of individual excellence that they’re worth recounting.

The brilliant backheel to release Didier N’Dong for the first penalty, the superb through ball that should have seen Jermain Defoe put Sunderland a goal up just moments later.

Most impressively, the way he backed into Ragnar Klavan and killed the ball stone dead from an aimless long ball in the second half. He would have had no chance in the air and it was a brilliant bit of ingenuity to hold the ball up, typical of an intelligent display.

The 21-year-old has not always looked like he has the stomach for the relegation fight but this was an encouraging performance.

Flair players of the ilk Sunderland fans have not seen enough of in recent seasons.

Sunderland will truly miss Didier Ndong as leaves for Gabon.

Ndong’s performances have been the subject of much debate so far this season; the midfielder perhaps unfortunate to be judged against his status as the club’s record signing.

Yet this performance will leave no one in any doubt as to just how much he will be missed when he leaves for the AFCON.

It’s such a shame to lose him just as he is beginning to really grow in stature.

Vito Mannone is more than just a capable deputy.

Sunderland fans have considered themselves to lucky to have such strength in depth in the goalkeeping department, so to see Mannone falter at Turf Moor was a disappointing suprise.

Here, the Italian was back to his best, setting the tone for an excellent afternoon by saving well from Daniel Sturridge early on.

A strong contender for Man of the Match, Mannone showed that the goalposts will be well tended in Jordan Pickford’s absence.

Daniel Sturridge’s injury was a crucial moment.

Daniel Sturridge was subbed off, and Sunderland were level two minutes later.

The two weren’t directly related, but the home defence would certainly have been relieved not to have to have the Liverpool striker ghosting around their box in the final moments.

It’s incredible to think that Sturridge can’t nail down a place for club and country.

Sunderland’s set-pieces need improvement at both ends.

Sturridge, of course, was aided no end by Sunderland switching off from a corner.

They’d already let Emre Can drift into space on the edge of the box, and were fortunate that he could only scuff his volley. Sturridge was the quickest to react, unmarked as he turned home the opener.

It was the same story again for the second. Sunderland were unlucky that an unsighted Papy Djilibodji could only nod across his six-yard box, but they were asleep again as Sadio Mane gleefully converted at the far post.

It wasn’t much better at the other end, even if it was a Seb Larsson free-kick that won the crucial penalty. Elsewhere, the delivery was mediocre at best, and those in the box somehow managed to find themselves offside from excellent dead ball opportunities.

Much to work on in that department; to shut out this vibrant Liverpool side from open play but gift two goals from corners was frustrating to say the least.

Mane was the most influential player in this game

When Sunderland managed to shackle Mane, they looked like they could go on to win the game.

When he wriggled free, it looked like the visitors could run a cricket score. .

Moyes’ decision to play Larsson on the left of midfield was vindicated as he and Patrick Van Aanholt managed to slowly get to grips with the task.