Sunderland 0 Liverpool 1: Vito Mannone shows his worth and five other things learned from Reds defeat

Jermain Defoe has a shot
Jermain Defoe has a shot
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Five defeats on the spin to end the year, 2016 cannot come quickly enough for Sunderland.

Deep in relegation trouble, the latest defeat was inflicted by Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool at the Stadium of Light.

Vito Mannone tips an effort over the bar

Vito Mannone tips an effort over the bar

A strike from Christian Benteke 22 seconds after the re-start sealed the victory.

But what did we learn from the defeat?

Much improved display but it ends in defeat. Again.

The opening 45 minutes were a world away from the performances against Chelsea and Manchester City.

Sebastian Coates goes down injured

Sebastian Coates goes down injured

Sunderland were dogged, determined and closed down the Liverpool players well.

It was one of their best 45 minute displays all season, not that the bar has been set very high, mind.

But it all went downhill 22 seconds into the second half to leave Sunderland pointless. Again.

Vito Mannone shows his worth.

The Italian keeper struggled against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Boxing Day.

He didn't get close to any of their four goals. But he was in fine form against Liverpool.

Mannone more than justified his recent recall to the first team - with Costel Pantilimon again having to make do with a place on the bench.

One save onto the post from Firmino was world class.

Could Sunderland now cash in on Pantilimon in January and recall Jordan Pickford from his impressive loan spell at Preston North End to compete for the No 1 jersey?

Jack Rodwell just cannot get his Sunderland career going.

Another false dawn for the ex-Everton and Manchester City midfielder.

He returned to the Sunderland side after a one-match suspension but was trudging off injured after just 30 minutes.

It was a sad - but all too familiar sight - for Sunderland fans.

Rodwell just cannot get his Sunderland career going at a time when the Black Cats need him to be firing on all cylinders and show his worth.

Sunderland MUST keep Lee Cattermole fit.

Cattermole showed how important he is to this Sunderland team last night.

He is the midfield general. Constantly organising and cajoling his teammates.

The Teessider puts in a shift too, setting the tempo with his tackles and approach to the opening stages.

He jaded second half - understandable given his lack of football recently - but he could still pick a pass from 30-yards.

IF Sunderland are to survive, then Cattermole will be key.

Chopping and changing the team and system isn't working.

Sam Allardyce looked to have stumbled across a winning formula a month or so back.

A 3-5-2 system reaped rewards with victories over Crystal Palace and Stoke City.

But injuries since then to his back three - Younes Kaboul, John O'Shea and now Sebastian Coates are injured - has decimated Allardyce's plans.

He has had to tinker with his team, the back four in particular, and it hasn't worked.

Sunderland need an injury-free run and some consistency in selection.

A raft of new signings would help too.

2016 can't get any worse, can it?

Sunderland fans fear the answer to that question will be yes come May, if not before.

The Black Cats are facing an uphill struggle to survive, the club is seven points adrift of safety, eight in reality, with the awful goal difference.

But 2015 has been beyond miserable. Just seven Premier League wins all season, five at home.

That has to improve. And with five defeats on the spin, hopefully the only way is now up.

Clearly, Aston Villa on Saturday is a must-win game. Supporters live in hope.