The Belgian's goal was only seriously threatened when he misjudged a Charlie Adam free-kick and was nearly caught out.
The Scotland defender got the better of Craig Bellamy with a disciplined and determined show.
He played with a broken hand but he made sure that Luis Suarez was never given the chance to be a handful for Liverpool.
He was once tipped to join Liverpool during his Hull days and he showed why as he marked his 100th Premier League appearance with an imperious performance
The on-loan Manchester City defender was making his first Premier League start in 10 months but it hardly showed because he looked comfortable.
His battle with Martin Kelly was an intriguing one and it is fair to say the winger met his match in the Reds defender.
England beware, the way the Swede works up and down the wing suggests he will be a menace to the Three Lions at Euro 2012.
He gave the Sunderland midfield a thrust that Liverpool were lacking thanks to his high-energy game.
He was always a willing outlet for his defence and drove deep into enemy territory with plenty of purpose.
The former Manchester United striker showed why he is in the frame for Euro 2012 with a lively performance and he played a crucial role in the decisive goal.
The on-loan Arsenal striker finally seems to be finding his feet on Wearside and as well as taking his goal well he led the line energetically before leaving the field on a stretcher.
You make your own luck and even though there was a touch of good fortune about the Sunderland goal, the stand-in skipper will know he should have done better.
His failure to stop Fraizer Campbell proved costly as Sunderland took the lead and he looked ill at ease alongside Coates.
The former Newcastle left-back shrugged off the boo-boys to produce a neat and tidy display.
He looked like an accident waiting to happen and even struggled to get the simple things right on a day that does not bode well for his Premier League prospects.
The right-back plays like an out-of-position centre-half and as well as struggling to contain James McClean he offered little going forward.
The fact he received more applause from Sunderland fans than their Liverpool counterparts when he was substituted said it all really.
There was plenty of perspiration but not enough inspiration from the Scot who failed to capitalise on plenty of possession and was hauled off midway through the second half.
The anchorman called the shots in midfield and shielded his defence with plenty of purpose.
He worked his socks off but did not have enough guile to break down the Sunderland defence.
If Sunderland fans tried to knock him out of his stride with their booing then they succeeded because little went right for the Uruguayan.
He started brightly but faded badly and looked increasingly peripheral when he went off midway through the second half.