No beach party for Bruce as Liverpool puncture shrinking Black Cats
By Phil Dickinson
A sublime curling strike from Fernando Torres as early as the 3rd minute propelled Liverpool to an assured 3-0 victory against Steve Bruce’s Sunderland, The Reds once again banishing memories of this year’s costly away day failures.
In October of this season, Liverpool’s title ambitions began coming apart at the seams, as a stray inflatable condemned them to a shattering defeat at The Stadium Of Light. It was a clear low point in a sequence of results that severely dented Liverpool’s season.
The inevitable beach ball based banter was out in force on Anfield’s terraces, but on the pitch, Liverpool’s players looked in no mood to humour their Weirside opponents. In fact, Benitez’s men put in a first half performance that more befitted a side chasing league titles than one lagging behind in the race for 4th place.
Torres finding the net so early in the game certainly made Liverpool’s job a lot easier. Cutting in from the left hand side and driving at Sunderland’s defenders in typical fashion, the Spanish hit man audaciously curled the ball way beyond Sunderland keeper, Craig Gordon from what seemed like a difficult combination of distance and acute angle.
The game was over as a contest from that moment on, as Liverpool settled into the game and began playing with the kind of purpose and pace that has been so clearly lacking from the Anfield side this campaign.
As well as getting an early goal, the key to Liverpool’s success seemed to be a change in formation, Benitez employing an orthodox 4-4-2 system that he has not at all favoured in recent seasons. With Gerrard operating from a deeper role and bursting to join the likes of Babel, Kuyt, Maxi and Torres in advanced positions, Liverpool appeared to be winning the ball higher up the pitch and committing more men in attack. As a result, The Reds carved out a succession of good chances, Gerrard, Agger, Maxi and Torres all going close to doubling Liverpool’s lead.
But it was right back, Glen Johnson who eventually grabbed the decisive second, his powerful, long range effort skipping up off the knee of defender Michael Turner and crashing past Craig Gordon on the 32nd minute mark. It was the very least Liverpool deserved for arguably their best first half display this season.
A two goal cushion isn’t always enough in the Premier League though; spirited comebacks are what our great league is all about. But on this occasion, the Black Cats looked completely deflated. A fight back looked completely beyond them. With Sunderland posing very little threat to Reina’s goal, the 2nd half descended into a training match.
The reduction in tempo didn’t stop Liverpool carving out chances though, Babel firing wildly over from 20 yards after being played in by Torres.
And on the hour mark, Liverpool had their third of the day, an incisive and unselfish pass from Johnson finding Torres in the area who kept his cool to knock home his 20th goal of the season in only his 26th start.
This victory sets Liverpool up nicely for a very winnable set of games in the month of April, but a set of games in which there is almost no room for error as they continue to battle with Spurs and Manchester City for 4th place. Liverpool remain 4 points behind 4th placed Spurs, knowing that the North London club have all of the top 3 still to play. Hope springs eternal.
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