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26 March 2014
• Anfield, Liverpool
Referee: K. Friend
• Attendance: 44524
S. Gerrard 39'
D. Sturridge 48'
Sung-Yong Ki 76'
Well, that's all from our LIVE coverage of events at Anfield. It was another Premier League cracker - many thanks for joining us, and we'll see you again very soon!
Sunderland, meanwhile, remain three points from safety, and now just have one game in hand on West Brom and Crystal Palace, who lie 16th and 17th respectively. April is going to be a massive month for Poyet's side.
Rodgers' men move up to second with that win, and are now just one point behind Premier League leaders Chelsea. The title race just keeps hotting up, and Liverpool are right in the middle of it.
That is indeed it at Anfield as the whistle goes for FULL TIME! Liverpool get the win, but it was more nervous than it should have been as they dominated most of the match. It was a spirited fightback from Sunderland but the hosts held out in the end.
90' + 3'
Just seconds away from a vital Liverpool victory. Sterling fouls Colback and Mannone hammers it forward, but Altidore loses out in the air. Surely that's it?
90' + 2'
Yet more good hold-up play from the hosts as Johnson first draws a foul from Cattermole, then wins a throw off Colback right by the corner.
90' + 1'
Liverpool are doing well to kill time now as they press into the Sunderland half. Coutinho has a shot blocked by O'Shea before Colback is forced to concede a throw near the corner flag.
End-to-end stuff here! Johnson is in behind to drill the ball across the area, but Allen is back to clear before Suarez picks it up inside the Sunderland half. He does really well to hold off several challenges but eventually loses out, and the visitors clear as we enter three added minutes.
O'SHEA!! What a chance!! Johnson flicks the free kick into the area and O'Shea flicks it on, but the ball flashes across the six-yard box, evading Altidore's stretch before going behind for a goal kick.
Chance here for Sunderland as Colback goes up against Johnson on the left-hand side, and knocks it past the Liverpool man before going down near the by-line. It looks soft but the visitors have a free kick.
Error by Bridcutt, who gives it straight to Sterling, and the winger spreads it out wide to Henderson. The midfielder slightly hesitates, though, and is quickly shut down by Colback and Bridcutt, who makes amends for his error by winning it back.
Suarez loses possession to Vergini, who showed good strength to muscle the striker off the ball. Cattermole wastes the opportunity, though, seeing his diagonal pass forward cut out by Flanagan.
You can feel the tension at Anfield now as the players and fans all look a bit nervous. Gerrard is called into action in his own box, clearing an Altidore cross from the right-hand side.
Real chance for Sunderland as Liverpool are caught short and Johnson spreads the ball wide for Bardsley, who charges towards the area before seeing his drilled shot deflect well out of danger.
Jack Colback replaces Dossena, who has had a torrid time in this second half dealing with Suarez especially. Not long left at Anfield - can Sunderland get an equaliser?
Chance for Sunderland as Bardsley gets into an advanced position on the right after good work from Johnson. The defender swings in a cross looking for Altidore by the penalty spot, but the American is all over Skrtel and the whistle goes for a free kick.
SUAREZ GOES CLOSE!! It's a better effort than his set piece in the first half, as he curls a vicious shot over and around the wall, but just inches over the crossbar with Mannone scrambling desperately.
Cattermole is in trouble with the referee as the defender commits a foul 30 yards from goal. Who will take this one?
Raheem Sterling is on for Sturridge, and immediately shows lightning pace to keep the ball in play right by the corner, and Suarez shows wonderful determination and skill to both get to the ball first and then keep it away from two defenders.
SUAREZ!! The Uruguayan tries the spectacular, looking to chip Mannone from 30 yards, but the goalkeeper gets back easily to catch it from under his own crossbar. It might not be Suarez's night, after all...
That's made things rather interesting. Will Liverpool pay for not going further in front while they had the chance?
Assist Adam Johnson
Goal Ki Sung-Yueng
KI PULLS ONE BACK!! He's been the visitors' best player in just 15 minutes, and he's on the scoresheet as Johnson's corner evades everyone before the Korean nods into an empty net.
KI!! The midfielder has been superb since coming on, and chests the ball down on the edge of the area before seeing a low volley deflected behind for a corner.
Penalty? Coutinho seems to think so as he cuts inside the area before going down under a light challenge from O'Shea. The defender, and the referee, aren't impresses and play goes on.
Almost 2-1, then nearly 3-0!! It's been an incredible second half so far, but Sturridge's early goal after the break is the only action on the scoresheet in these 45.
STURRIDGE HITS THE BAR!! The woodwork at the other end is rattled straight away as Sturridge runs on to a lay-off on the edge of the box, curving a shot towards the top corner but seeing it hammer back off the frame of the goal.
CATTERMOLE SMASHES THE BAR!! What a chance for Sunderland!! The ball is lifted out to the left-hand side, and Johson volleys it back to the edge of the box for Cattermole, who rifles a first-time volley on to the crossbar with Mignolet beaten.
Cattermole tries to set a quick Sunderland attack forward, firing a diagonal ball into the path of Johnson, but he drags it and Liverpool get a throw.
Just over 20 minutes to go, and Liverpool should see the remainder of this game out now. Ki has impressed since coming on, though, but can he inspire an unlikely comeback?
Nice work, Bridcutt!! The midfielder does really well to keep an overhit ball across field in play, flicking a header up at full stretch before sliding to keep it from rolling over the line. It even prompts applause from the home fans!
Yet more danger for the visitors as Sturridge chips over the top for Suarez, who tries to return it to his strike partner, but his lofted cross is too high and Vergini heads it behind for a corner.
COUTINHO!! It's not long before the hosts get the ball back, and they're straight into the opposing half. Suarez has it outside the box and scoops a fantastic ball over the top for Coutinho, who tries to lift the ball over Mannone on the volley, but it's a simple save in the end.
Excellent work from Johnson, who almost cuts out a risky Gerrard pass before chasing down both Mignolet and Skrtel, forcing the defender to put it out for a throw.
KI!! The substitutes combine well in their first contribution, as Ki squares to Johnson before continuing his run, and the winger flicks the ball over the top of the Liverpool defence. Ki is the only one chasing but can't quite reach the ball to flick an effort at goal, and it's a goal kick.
VERGINI!! How many lives does he have?! Johnson fires in another low cross and the defender completely fluffs the clearance, slicing it behind him and just over his own crossbar.
It's a double change for the Black Cats as Adam Johnson and Ki Sung-Yeung replace Giaccherini and the ineffectual Wickham.
Altidore goes up with Mignolet and ends up taking out the goalkeeper and Skrtel at the same time. It's a free kick to the hosts, and Poyet looks like he's preparing changes.
MANNONE SPILLS!! The Sunderland goalkeeper almost lets Liverpool in as he fumbles Johnson's cross looking for Sturridge at the near post, but he gathers it quickly before Suarez can pounce on the loose ball.
SUAREZ!! After Wickham is caught offside in the Liverpool box, the hosts quickly come forward as Suarez receives it on the left, cutting inside Vergini before flashing a shot just wide of Mannone's far post.
Excellent defending from Coutinho, who has really stepped his performance up after the break, and he halts a Sunderland attack as he tracks back to win the ball off Bardsley.
This is a very dangerous spell for the visitors now, as Agger holds off Bardsley before spreading it wide to Coutinho. It comes back to Suarez, who looks for Johnson with a diagonal ball out wide, but it skips off the Anfield surface and goes out for a goal kick.
SHOULD BE THREE!! Coutinho again gets things going with a beautiful flick to Allen, who pulls back from the by-line, and Sturridge fires first time towards the corner, only to see his effort blocked by Suarez. The Uruguayan then tries to sneak the ball in under Mannone but the Sunderland goalkeeper stands firm and turns it behind.
Liverpool look really in the mood now, especially Coutinho, who produces two lovely touches in 30 seconds, first spreading the ball out wide before later flicking it over the top of Dossena's head.
Nearly a great chance for the visitors as Giaccherini finds some space in between the lines, but Bridcutt's pass into him is too powerful and he can't bring it under control.
It's been a lonely evening for Sunderland's strikers so far, and that's shown once more as Wickham is completely isolated before losing out to Skrtel, who comfortably wins the ball and plays it to Gerrard.
A frantic couple of minutes, then! That could have killed the game off completely, although it still looks like Liverpool should see this one out comfortably now.
Penalty? Liverpool are in straight away and Suarez charges towards the area, and it looks like the striker is clipped by Cattermole just inside the box but, amazingly, nothing is given.
Assist Jordan Henderson
Goal Daniel Sturridge
STURRIDGE MAKES IT TWO!! What a strike!! Henderson picks the ball up in midfield and squares it out to Sturridge, who cuts in from the right-hand edge of the area before bending a wonderful strike across goal and into the top corner.
SUAREZ!! A good chance goes begging as the familiar trio of Suarez, Henderson and Johnson link up again before the latter gets to the by-line inside the box. He's quickly closed down by O'Shea but the ball pops out and into the path of Suarez, whose left-footed effort disappointingly flies way over the bar.
Liverpool get the action back underway at Anfield as we're off for the second half.
It's almost time to resume proceedings at Anfield. It's still tight at 1-0 but the hosts have controlled the tempo of the game. Gerrard's goal was their only shot on target, and you have to worry for Sunderland if Liverpool start to find their shooting boots.
Can Poyet's men change their tactics and get back in the game? Or will it be more of the same from Liverpool? Be sure to join us when we come back for the second half.
Sunderland's deep defending looked to be working, but Vergini let them down late on in the half with a rash challenge on Suarez. It could be worse though, after that second foul which could easily have seen another booking for the defender.
That's HALF TIME at Anfield and Liverpool take a 1-0 lead into the changing room after dominating proceedings so far this evening. It took a thunderous free kick from Gerrard, but they're ahead and on course for second place.
45' + 1'
Gerrard fires the set piece low into the six-yard box, but O'Shea heads it clear before Johnson can't make use of the second ball, giving it straight back to the visitors.
Oh, Vergini, you lucky boy. The defender has absolutely no chance of winning the ball as he slides in on Suarez on the left-hand edge of the box. The referee pities him, though, and doesn't brandish a second yellow, although it's a free kick in a dangerous position.
The first corner is easily dealt with but Sunderland scrap to win another. Unfortunately, though, it's a poor delivery from Giaccherini and Liverpool clear. Dossena is then penalised for a foul throw which, quite frankly, is embarrassing at this level.
The Sunderland pressure continues as Flanagan is forced to put it behind for a corner. Can they surprise the hosts and get a leveller?
WICKHAM!! He's been far from prolific, but the striker almost levels things as he twists and turns outside the area before firing a low shot at goal from 20 yards. It takes a deflection and looks bound for the corner before Mignolet stretches to divert it behind for a corner.
The flag goes up as Sturridge is caught offside, and Sunderland can try to push forward before the break. Anfield is much louder now; you could feel the collective sigh of relief as that free kick went in.
Yellow Card Phil Bardsley
That's the breakthrough they've been desperately hunting for, and it comes before half time, which is a real blow to the visitors, who have defended stoically until now.
Goal Steven Gerrard
GERRARD OPENS THE SCORING!! It's a stunning set piece from the Liverpool skipper as he steps up and bends a vicious effort towards goal. Mannone is slightly wrong-footed, still managing to get to it, but can only help it into the top corner. 1-0.
It's a free kick to the hosts, similar to the earlier one from Suarez, but in a more central position. Can they move in front here?
Yellow Card Santiago Vergini
Could this be a red card? No! Suarez is beyond Vergini and the defender takes out the striker before he gets in on goal. It looks like he's the last man but the referee only gives a yellow, suggesting Brown may possibly have got across to Suarez in time.
Wickham thinks he is through on goal as he latches on to Giaccherini's flicked ball beyond the defence, but the whistle goes as he grapples with Skrtel and the Liverpool man ends up on the floor.
SUAREZ!! Skrtel does well to snuff out a Sunderland attack and his pass forward is deflected into the path of Suarez, who races towards the Sunderland box. He is faced with three or four yellow shirts, though, and cuts on to his left before firing a 20-yard effort wide.
Johnson - and the Liverpool fans - are furious as the defender goes down under a challenge from Dossena, only to see nothing given. This is proving to be a key duel so far tonight.
Gerrard finds Suarez in a rare bit of space, and the striker tries to slot Johnson through, but his touch lets him down and he slips as two Sunderland defenders come in to steal the ball.
Henderson spreads the ball out to Johnson on the right, and the full-back tries to fire it into the box, but again the delivery is blocked by Dossena before O'Shea clears. The Sunderland defenders are working very hard tonight.
Johnson gives the ball straight to Dossena after Allen had worked hard to win it off Bardsley. It's a little tight and scrappy at times in the middle, and Bridcutt causes a stoppage as he clips Coutinho and concedes a free kick.
The atmosphere is a little more muted than usual at Anfield; you sense the tension creeping into the stands. 15 minutes to go until the break - can the hosts break the deadlock before then?
Altidore v Flanagan has been an interesting battle so far, and at the moment it's the Liverpool man on top as the striker again loses out, this time fouling his opponent on the touchline deep inside the hosts' half.
Good goalkeeping from Mannone, who is on to Coutinho's through ball like a flash, getting there at the by-line before Henderson and claiming the ball comfortably.
ALLEN!! It's the midfielder's turn to try a speculative effort, drifting towards the edge of the area before firing a 20-yard shot high and wide. Liverpool still struggling to create chances in the box.
Not the early goal fest we expected, then, but Liverpool are very much in control of this game. You suspect patience is key for them tonight, as they could end up getting very frustrated by Poyet's tactics.
Bardsley is put under all sorts of pressure from Coutinho and Allen, seeing his ball down the line deflected infield and Henderson is on to it, giving the hosts another chance to mount an attack.
Sunderland are defending very deep, and the hosts are finding it hard to get in behind at the moment. Johnson is forced to make a poor cross before Suarez is quickly closed down by three defenders. The striker wants a free kick but nothing is given and the visitors hack it forward.
Surprisingly loose touch from Suarez, who receives the ball off Coutinho before trying to cut on to his right and get a shot away, but his control lets him down and Bardsley challenges well to help Sunderland clear once more.
There's just a hint that Sunderland could grow into this game, albeit a small hint. Bardsley fires in a dangerous cross from the right but it's headed away, before Mignolet shanks a clearance out for a throw.
Excellent display of strength from Flanagan, who manages to hold off Altidore out wide and win a throw off the striker. Clearly stronger than he looks, the young full-back.
Allen is penalised for a foul on Bardsley inside the Sunderland box, giving the visitors' defence a chance for respite as Mannone will launch it forward.
Allen commits Bridcutt in midfield before playing wide to Coutinho, who charges in diagonally before sliding a pass beyond the defence for Sturridge. The striker gets to it first but is forced all the way to the by-line, and his attempted backheel is easily dealt with.
The Reds almost in as Suarez picks it up on the left, and fires in a cheeky cross with the outside of his right foot, but Sturridge has to stretch and can't get high enough to divert it towards goal.
That's poor from O'Shea, who tries to switch play out to Dossena on the left-hand side, but gets the ball all wrong and sends it straight out for a throw to Liverpool.
It's been comfortable so far for the hosts, but Sunderland have held off their usual high-tempo start and the best chances have been shots from distance. It's unlikely that will continue, though.
Good work on the right from Liverpool as Henderson and Suarez link up before the latter plays Johnson in behind Dossena, but the full-back had just strayed offside and the flag goes up.
Not one for the scrapbook for Suarez, here, as Henderson loops a header back in his direction and the striker tries a spectacular volley. Unfortunately for him, it's a complete air kick and he ends up looking rather embarrassed.
This is better from Sunderland as Cattermole spreads the ball out to Dossena, who has time to fire in a cross. It's cleared by Skrtel, but only as far as the edge of the box, and Bardsley tries a volley which is blocked before the hosts clear their lines.
Dossena looks for Wickham with an early ball in from the left, but Agger deals with it comfortably and the hosts break quickly. Suarez almost finds his strike partner with a cute ball forward, but there's too much on it and Sunderland have possession.
STURRIDGE!! If the game carries on like this the hosts will score before much longer. Coutinho has plenty of space to move into the Sunderland half before squaring to Henderson, who finds Sturridge on the right-hand corner of the box. The striker cuts inside and flashes a shot just over the crossbar from 20 yards.
The Sunderland defence has its work cut out tonight, and Sturridge shows his menace as he works into the box before producing a series of stepovers and neat touches, but his shot is blocked and then Suarez concedes a free kick on the edge of the area.
The players clearly fancy some long-range efforts tonight. Cattermole works hard to keep hold of possession before squaring to Bridcutt, who fires into the Kop from around 30 yards.
SUAREZ!! The Uruguayan steps up to take the set piece and curves it beautifully over the wall, aiming to swing his effort inside the near post, but there's too much height on it and the ball goes into the stand.
Flanagan moves into the Sunderland half and plays the ball inside to Sturridge who, with his back to goal, draws a foul from O'Shea. Here's a real chance for the hosts from a free kick 25 yards out...
Liverpool's second shot in the opening five minutes comes from Coutinho, but it's also never going to trouble Mannone as his right-footed effort from 30 yards floats high over the bar.
Good work by Dossena on the left, who nods back a high ball into the path of Giaccherini, but the midfielder can't keep control and Suarez gets hold of it. He charges down the rigth but is halted illegally by Brown and the hosts have a free kick inside their own half.
Johnson fires a wayward shot into the stands, giving the Black Cats a chance to have some of their own possession. Vergini salvages a loose ball, keeping it away from Suarez, before Dossena's long ball forward is put out for a throw by Skrtel.
Danger straight away for the visitors as Sturridge swings in a cross from the right. Allen charges into the box and can't quite reach it before Vergini diverts it towards his own goal, but Mannone gets a good first-time clearance away.
Sunderland get the ball rolling, and we're underway on Merseyside.
The players are out of the tunnel and Anfield is as noisy as ever. We'll be treated to the customary belting out of "You'll Never Walk Alone", and then it's time to get started.
So, a win tonight will move Liverpool to within a point of leaders Chelsea. Rodgers has delivered plenty for the fans this season, but now they want more. Can they pick up their first Premier League title? Just five minutes to go until kick-off.
Liverpool, though, are having a fantastic 2014. I've already mentioned they're unbeaten this calendar year in the league, and the records look set to keep tumbling. Their tally of 82 goals is their highest ever in a 38-game season, and they've still got eight more to go.
The omens aren't good for Gus Poyet's men, it has to be said. The Black Cats have 26 Premier League goals this season, which is two fewer than Suarez has all by himself. They've also not won in their last four games and haven't scored since Fabio Borini's early goal against Manchester City in the League Cup final.
The visitors, meanwhile, ring in the changes from their defeat at Norwich, switching to five at the back as Santiago Vergini and Andrea Dossena come into defence. Lee Cattermole returns in midfield while Emanuele Giaccherini also gets the nod, and Jozy Altidore is given support up front in the form of Connor Wickham.
Brendan Rodgers goes with exactly the same XI that won 6-3 at Cardiff on Saturday as he looks for a seventh straight Premier League victory. Luis Suarez is one goal away from beating Robbie Fowler's record of most Premier League goals for Liverpool in one season, and you'd be a fool to bet against him doing that tonight.
Sunderland subs: Ki, Larsson, Johnson, Colback, Roberge, Scocco, Ustari.
Sunderland (5-3-2): Mannone; Bardsley, Brown, O'Shea, Vergini, Dossena; Cattermole, Bridcutt, Giaccherini; Altidore, Wickham.
Liverpool subs: Jones, Sterling, Aspas, Sakho, Lucas, Cissokho, Moses.
Liverpool (4-3-1-2): Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Flanagan; Henderson, Gerrard, Allen; Coutinho; Suarez, Sturridge.
The teams have been announced so let's bring you the line-ups, starting with the hosts...
Hello and welcome to LIVE coverage of the Premier League as high-flying Liverpool take on struggling Sunderland at Anfield. The Reds are unbeaten in the league in 2014 and can move back into second place with victory tonight.
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