Black Cats defender Mensah sees red after foul on Suarez
Liverpool cruised to a 2-0 win over 10-man Sunderland at the Stadium of Light with the goals coming from a controversial Dirk Kuyt penalty and Luis Suarez strike, which sees them close the gap on Tottenham in fifth place.
After a bright opening from the home side, the first chance of the game fell the way of the visitors and Simon Mignolet did well to deny Kuyt, who nearly pounced upon an Andy Carroll knockdown from a corner.
Moments later Kuyt should have done better from another corner after beating Phil Bardsley in the air but the Dutchman failed to get his header on target from close range.
Sunderland nearly broke the deadlock after great build up play from Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck down the left, the latter then produced a brilliant cross into the area which was nearly converted by Kieran Richardson but the ball fell just out of his reach.
Liverpool were awarded a controversial penalty in the 34th after John Mensah failed to control the ball outside of the area. Jay Spearing capitalised on this error by racing onto the ball but he was then felled by Mensah.
The referee Kevin Friend awarded a free-kick just outside the area however his mind was changed by his linesman and then awarded the penalty much to the fury of the Sunderland players.
Kuyt slotted the penalty home sending Mignolet the wrong way to give the away side the lead for his eighth goal of the season.
The Reds could have doubled their lead minutes later through Luis Suarez when he raced onto a through ball but his left footed half-volley was wonderfully saved by Mignolet as the Black Cats defence was in disarray.
In the second half Liverpool again went close - this time Carroll was denied his first goal for his new club by Lee Cattermole, on for Sulley Muntari, who cleared the ball off the line after the striker headed towards goal.
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Minutes later there was more controversy involving referee Friend after the Reds broke on a counter and Carroll was fouled outside the area by Titus Bramble, the referee appeared to let play run and the ball ran to Meireles who skied his effort.
However the referee then brought play back and awarded a free-kick to Liverpool after an apparent advantage. Suarez just missed the target from the free-kick which would have further infuriated Steve Bruce had the effort found the net.
Sunderland continue to press and Steed Malbranque was unlucky to see his curled effort go just wide as he found himself in space on the edge of the visitors area.
The Reds were a threat all game and looked like they could score with every attack; Mignolet was called into action again to deny Kuyt whose cross-cum-shot looked as though it was creeping in the Belgian’s goal.
The home side were leaving gaps all over the field as they pressed for an equaliser and Spearing nearly took full advantage as he raced past Malbranque and fired a strong effort towards which was brilliantly saved by Mignolet.
After keeping Liverpool at bay for most of the second half, the Sunderland goal was finally breached again with Suarez finding the net from an acute angle, although Mignolet will wish he covered his near post a bit better to deny the Uruguayan.
The Black Cats were then reduced to 10 men in the 82nd minute when Mensah was shown a red card after a coming together with Suarez which further compounded Steve Bruce’s side’s miserable afternoon.
The visitors maintained possession for the final few minutes ensuring the home side did not have chance of an unlikely comeback to seal an impressive win on Wearside.