LFC Talk


Match Review: Sunderland 0-1 Liverpool by lfctalk

Fernando Torres grabbed a late winner to earn the three points for Liverpool against Sunderland in the season opener. The Spanish striker was afforded rare space by the Sunderland defence and took his opportunity with a clinical finish from 25 yards. Half-time substitute Xabi Alonso passed the ball to the forward, who turned and struck a low drive into Craig Gordon’s bottom right corner.

Sunderland started the brighter of the two sides, but made few clear openings despite pressurising their visitors defence with some neat passing. El-Hadji Diouf was in typically feisty spirits early on and looked hungry to impress his new fans with a strong performance against his former side. The Senegalese striker roved across the frontline and was involved in a few spats with Reds defenders. Daryl Murphy got on the end of the best chance of Sunderland’s early prominence, but he could only head his chance into the arms of Spanish keeper Jose Reina. It was Diouf that provided the opportunity with a well-worked cross from the left-wing. Sunderland’s new £2.5m signing also gave Liverpool a scare after latching onto Hyypia’s weak header, but Jamie Carragher managed to nick the ball away to spare his central defensive partner’s blushes.

Liverpool failed to create many openings in the first-half with Robbie Keane and Fernando Torres receiving little service from the midfield. Yossi Benayoun and Dirk Kuyt started on the flanks for the away side, but couldn’t provide many opportunities for the front two. The Liverpool attacks were constantly stifled by overloading around the Sunderland box. The visitors attacks were too narrow and space was at a premium throughout the opening forty-five minutes. The best opportunity for a goal was denied by Alan Wiley’s decision to award a free-kick on the edge of the Sunderland area. Gerrard was tripped by Nyron Nosworthy on the edge of the area whilst playing a pass into Benayoun in the area. The Israeli was felled by another new Sunderland face, Pascal Chimbonda. The French defender took out Benayoun and a penalty should have been awarded. But Wiley decided to award the free-kick for the earlier foul. Gerrard’s resultant strike hit the Sunderland wall and the home side could breathe a sigh of relief.

Damien Plessis was taken off at half-time after complaining of a back problem. Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso was his replacement in the heart of the Reds midfield. The Euro 2008 winner started to influence proceedings immediately and started to make up for the lack of penetration from the flanks with some key passes. The axis of Alonso and Gerrard was paying off for the Reds as they started to exert more influence and held more possession in the second period.

Sunderland continued the pressure early in the second half with Murphy crossing for Diouf, but the African could only swipe his effort straight at Reina under pressure from the onrushing Carragher.

Yossi Benayoun made himself an opportunity which was weakly struck and pushed away by a diving Craig Gordon. The Scotland keeper’s save almost ran for debutant Keane, but the striker’s angle was too acute to take advantage of the chance. The keeper made another save from Dirk Kuyt’s strike, which was hawked on by both Keane and Torres. The Spaniard won the race, but his goalbound shot deflected off his strike partner for a goal kick.

Xabi Alonso continued to influence developments with an audacious shot from 60 yards. The Spaniard’s lobshot looked goalbound after eluding Gordon, but it drifted merely a yard wide of the Sunderland net.

Keane was replaced after a disappointing Premiership debut with Nabil El Zhar entering the fray and replacing Kuyt on the right-wing. The Dutchman moved into the centre, but continued to toil in possession. The hardworking forward’s afternoon was strewn with his usual selfless endeavour, but the lack of quality told more as the game moved on. The young Moroccan looked hungry, but did his prospects no favours with a petulant booking. After being denied a free-kick the French-born attacker kicked the ball away and was soon presented with a booking for the indiscretion.

The game looked to be fading into a second goalless draw in four days for the Reds before Alonso’s pass was converted into a fine winning goal by Spain’s Euro 2008 hero Torres.

Player ratings

Reina 7, Arbeloa 6, Carragher 7, Hyypia 7, Dossena 6, Plessis 6 (Alonso 8), Gerrard 7, Benayoun 6 (Aurelio 6), Kuyt 5, Keane 6 (El Zhar 6), Torres 7.

Man of the Match

Xabi Alonso – The Spaniard made the difference to the side after coming on at half-time. His passing and vision made up for the deficiencies in attack with little quality coming in from the flanks. After another 48 hours of speculation regarding the future, the midfielder showed his worth with another classy display.

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