Sunderland punish Liverpool

2012-03-10 19:59

Sunderland - Sunderland striker Nicklas Bendtner clinched a 1-0 win over Liverpool as the Reds crashed to their third consecutive English Premiership defeat for the first time since October 2003.

Bendtner got the only goal early in the second half to leave Liverpool stuck in seventh place and continue Sunderland's revival under boss Martin O'Neill, who has led the Black Cats to within two points of Kenny Dalglish's team.

The Anfield club's top four hopes look increasingly slender and Dalglish cut a puzzled figure in the technical area as his team looked toothless in attack from start to finish at the Stadium of Light.

Much had been made of Liverpool's inefficiencies going forward and once again they struggled to make inroads towards the Sunderland goal.

It has been their scoring problems -- highlighted by just 30 goals in the Premier League this season -- that have prevented them from mounting a sustained challenge for a Champions League spot.

And it didn't take long for Sunderland to sense they could take advantage.

Sunderland had created two decent chances before Liverpool had even thought about breaking in behind the home defence.

John O'Shea, the hosts' stand-in skipper in the absence of the suspended Lee Cattermole, flicked a Seb Larsson free-kick from close to half way over goalkeeper Pepe Reina's goal.

And when on-loan Arsenal forward Bendtner got in behind Jose Enrique to bring down Phil Bardsley's searching crossfield pass, there was an opportunity to find the early break through.

Bendtner, though, was caught in two minds and his cut back cruised between both Craig Gardner and Fraizer Campbell and Liverpool survived.

With Jamie Carragher left out after last weekend's defeat to Arsenal at Anfield, South American defender Sebastian Coates looked solid alongside Martin Skrtel.

That should have given the Reds further encouragement to press forward.

But despite creating the best of the chances before half-time there was still a lack of cutting edge and Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet looked comfortable.

Mignolet got down low to his right to deny Dirk Kuyt's header from Jordan Henderson's cross.

The Belgian was also on hand to race off his line to deny Luis Suarez after he had skipped past Michael Turner and O'Shea on the stroke of half-time.

In fact the nearest Liverpool came to scoring was when Skrtel stuck a leg out to meet James McClean's inviting cross just after the restart which almost ended up in his own net.

Shortly after that the opener did arrive. It was always likely to be fortuitous and there was more than an element of good fortune about it.

When Campbell brought down a long ball and turned Skrtel there was still plenty to do.

His shot from 20 yards bounced off the foot of the post, hit Reina, hit the post and then fell for Bendtner to side-foot high in to the net.

Dalglish attempted to revive Liverpool by introducing Steven Gerrard, Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing from the bench.

With the exception of a hopeful drive from Gerrard which was comfortably held by Mignolet, though, Sunderland held firm.