Liverpool has ended 2015 in a winning groove.
The Reds earned a 1-0 Premier League win over Sunderland on Wednesday at the Stadium of Light, as Christian Benteke scored moments after the restart to edge his club past the Black Cats. The victory was Liverpool’s second in succession, and Benteke now has scored the club’s only goal for the second consecutive contest.
Sunderland remains rooted in 19th place with 12 points after 19 games. Liverpool moves up to seventh place with 30 points from 19 games.
Liverpool pounced on Sunderland’s moment of maximum weakness.
Sunderland appeared to have left its focus in the locker room when Benteke scored. Nathaniel Clyne passed to Adam Lallana, who touched the ball — either intentionally or inadvertently — onto Benteke’s path. Vito Mannone raced off his line to intervene, but Benteke slid his shot underneath the Sunderland goalkeeper for a seminal goal in this memorable Premier League season.
Liverpool failed to separate itself from Sunderland in the first half, both in the scoreline and on balance of play. Liverpool enjoyed advantages over Sunderland in possession and territory but failed to create many scoring chances or momentum in the period.
Mannone tipped Roberto Firmino’s long-range drive off the crossbar in the 25th minute and saved the Brazilian’s header in the 36th minute. Other than those, Liverpool’s play failed to produce serious threats before Benteke’s quick strike.
Benteke’s goal marked an otherwise forgettable performance from the Belgian. The needless yellow card he picked up in the 19th minute suggested he wasn’t fully focused. Benteke struggled to impact the game before scoring (in his defense, his teammates provided him little service), but he improved in the second half.
Liverpool’s one-goal lead appeared to demoralize Sunderland, as the hosts failed to muster much of a response. The second half became a battle of attrition rather than a soccer spectacle. Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson limped off after 60 minutes. Sunderland’s DeAndre Yedlin replaced the injured Sebastian Coates after 72 minutes.
More than 30 minutes passed before either side produced a notable scoring chance, and it came by accident. Firmino’s sliced clearance went straight into the air inside Liverpool’s penalty area. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet failed to punch the ball away, and Sunderland’s Duncan Watmore shot at goal. Luckily, a mass of players prevented the ball from reaching Liverpool’s goal, sparing Mignolet from embarrassment.
Liverpool regained control in the closing stages and saw out the victory. The only fuss was Benteke’s failure to beat Mannone in a one-on-one situation in stoppage time. Benteke should have made the score 2-0, but 1-0 was a good enough result for Liverpool.
This choice is simple: Benteke’s goal.
Every player has that team against which they always seem to thrive. For Benteke, it’s Sunderland.
Liverpool will travel to London, where it will face West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@AnfieldLens