Gerrard rescues rocky Reds
Liverpool - Steven Gerrard saved Liverpool from another embarrassing defeat as the Reds captain salvaged a 2-2 draw against Sunderland at Anfield on Saturday.
Roy Hodgson's side trailed 2-1 early in the second half as Darren Bent's double for Sunderland stunned the struggling hosts, who had taken the lead through Dirk Kuyt's controversial early goal.
The prospect of a third league defeat in six matches this season was looming large for Hodgson, who had been strongly criticised following Liverpool's dismal League Cup exit on penalties against fourth-tier Northampton in midweek.
But Gerrard levelled to leave Liverpool relieved to escape a traumatic week without another loss.
Hodgson freely admitted before the game that the loss to Northampton was entirely his fault because of how weak the team was that he had selected.
For the Northampton game, he replaced every member of the side that lost to Manchester United last Sunday in the belief his squad was still good enough to cruise past the Cobblers but it backfired badly.
Hodgson went back to his first choice squad for this encounter, while Sunderland defender Titus Bramble, who was arrested during the week on suspicion of rape, kept his place in the visitors' team.
It took Liverpool just two minutes to show their desire to erase that League Cup misery as Fernando Torres volleyed into the roof of the net, only for his goal to be ruled out for offside.
It set an early marker and just three minutes later Liverpool opened the scoring in bizarre fashion.
After referee Stuart Atwell awarded Sunderland a free-kick following a Raul Meireles foul on Bramble, Black Cats defender Michael Turner tapped the ball back towards his own goal as if to suggest to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet that he should take it.
However, legally speaking he had kicked the ball back into play, and Torres spotted his mistake, raced past him and gifted the ball on a plate for Kuyt to slide past the completely bewildered Mignolet.
Yet despite opening the scoring, Liverpool reverted into their shells as Sunderland attempted to rally through the hardworking Bent.
Gerrard's terrible header back towards Pepe Reina almost helped Bent find the equaliser as he gifted the ball to him but the Liverpool goalkeeper brilliantly tackled Bent to prevent a goal.
Reina was helpless in the 25th minute when Bent equalised from the penalty spot after Christian Poulsen handballed an Ahmed Elmohamady cross.
Liverpool did not possess the wit or vision to break down a Sunderland defence that often had five men in it.
That all changed straight after the re-start as Sunderland took the lead in wonderful fashion as Bent grabbed his second of the game.
Nedum Onouha delivered a brilliantly testing cross from the right and Bent got in front of Glen Johnson to send a diving header past the helpless Reina.
The goal gave Sunderland a massive lift while Liverpool simply became ever more disjointed and dispirited.
But after 64 minutes the hitherto anonymous Gerrard popped up to drag Liverpool level as he has done so many times in the past.
Torres crossed the ball from the right and after taking a slight deflection off Turner, the ball fell nicely for Gerrard to head past the wrong-footed Mignolet.
Liverpool then began to dominate and Johnson, Daniel Agger and David Ngog all had fine chances in a frantic last five minutes but a winner could not be found.