Match Report: Sunderland 1-0 Liverpool - Bendtner The Difference In Steely Display

Bendtner The Difference In Steely Display

It was a far from classic game at the Stadium Of Light today, and having just shaded the game in play, creativity and determination, we also shaded it on goals, so perhaps everything was justified.

As said, it wasn't a great game, and for large parts it looked as though we really, really missed Stephane Sessegnon at times, we came out on top and had just enough in the tank to take all three points.

Anyway, let's crack on with a full match recap, complete with ratings and various other thoughts...

Martin O'Neill had three decisions to make pre-match with Lee Cattermole and Stephane Sessegnon suspended, whilst Kieran Richardson picked up an injury in the Tyne-Wear derby last week. As a result, Fraizer Campbell was drafted in to support Nicklas Bendtner, and Wayne Bridge was given a first start at left-back. After thoughts rumbled on during the week as to whether David Vaughan or Jack Colback should replace Cattermole, it was the local lad who won the day.

The visitors made two changes to their starting line-up from last week, with young Uruguayan Sebastian Coates replacing Jamie Carragher, and Craig Bellamy replacing Stewart Downing. Steven Gerrard and Andy Carroll remained on the bench as things got started.

It was a fairly subdued start to things at the Stadium Of Light. Liverpool didn't offer much in the way of a threat on Simon Mignolet's goal, and without dominating, we'd had the better of things. The main threats coming from set-pieces, with Sebastian Larsson the instigator.

First the Swede's freekick was flicked narrowly wide by John O'Shea in the area, then from a corner whipped to the back post, Fraizer Campbell nodded back for strike partner Nicklas Bendtner, but the on-loan Arsenal man's shot was tame and straight at Pepe Reina.

Bendtner was also first to react when a long ball was misjudged by Sebastian Coates in the Liverpool defence, and after charging to the byline his cross was met by nobody. The favour was returned moments later when McClean got into the box, but Bendtner's effort was no more than a swing an a miss, and the first quarter of the game remained goalless.

Things did pick up a little after then, and there was sightings of two players who'd barely featured so far, Wayne Bridge and Luis Suarez. It was Bridge who misjudged the flight of the ball, allowing Suarez to collects and run dangerously into the area. Turner coming across could have been a disaster, but the big man knocked it out for a corner rather calmly.

Dirk Kuyt was next to pose a question of the defence, when he met a cross from Suarez, and whilst the Dutchman's header was on target, it wasn't powerful enough to truly test Mignolet.

From here until the half-time whistle things leveled out a little, with the ball spending much of the time between the two final thirds. Charlie Adam shot well wide from distance on 37 minutes, whilst Craig Gardner did the same at the other end two minutes later.

Barring incidents where Adam's swirling freekick forcing Mignolet to tip over, and Bardsley hacking the ball off the line under little to no pressure after a header from a corner, there wasn't much to write home about at the half.

Finally after two minutes of stoppage time, Anthony Taylor put whistle to mouth to end a scrappy first half from both sides.

The second half started as the first ended, in rather scrappy fashion. Martin Skrtel headed powerfully at his own keeper under pressure from Campbell, whilst Jack Colback's fizzing effort was high, wide and handsome as we pushed for a breakthrough.

Shortly after though, that breakthrough came, in circumstances as scrappy as the game had been. Fraizer Campbell collected Colback's pass and turned towards goal. From 20 yards out the newly capped England striker fired towards goal. Now, follow this carefully... Reina tips the ball onto the post, the ball rebounds off Reina's back, onto the post again and out to Nicklas Bendtner, who expertly wrapped his boot around it to finish from close range, and the lads had the lead in the 56th minute.

We did well to soak up pressure as the visitors attempted to up the tempo, and in turn their own game which had been fairly lackluster so far. The closest Liverpool managed to come was Luis Suarez wasting a good opportunity after his own neat interplay with Jordan Henderson, as outside of that they were limited to Charlie Adam's wild long-range efforts.

Meanwhile we held position and possession well, backed by a vociferous support. Campbell did excellently in helping out his midfield and hassling defenders, whilst Jack Colback rarely wasted a pass in an impressive performance in the middle of the park.

Liverpool made changes for the final 20 minutes as they looked to push on, Steven Gerrard and Andy Carroll came on to replace the ineffectual Craig Bellamy and the wasteful Charlie Adam. Meanwhile we replaced Campbell with David Vaughan and looked to shore things up in midfield.

The final throws of the game it was defence against attack, with our defence firmly on top of things throughout as Liverpool failed to create any openings of note. Steven Gerrard hooked an over hit cross back in to the area, but thankfully it fell to Andy Carroll six yards out and the danger was over. Outside of that, there was nothing.

In fact the only worry we had was when Nicklas Bendtner was needlessly felled by Skrtel, forcing the Danish striker off on a stretcher. He was up and moving, so hopefully it's not that bad, but having had two good games on the bounce if you count today, we'll hope this isn't a long-term injury.

Credit to the lads for standing firm, and holding on for a deserved win.

Team (Ratings in brackets)

Starting XI: Mignolet (6), Bardsley (6), Turner (8), O'Shea (8), Bridge (6), Larsson (7), Colback (8), Gardner (7), McClean (7), Campbell (7), Bendtner (7)

Subs Used: Vaughan (7), Wickham (6)

Man Of The Match: Jack Colback - I'm not 100% certain, but this might be Colback's first Man Of The Match on this site this season. Either way he was full of industry throughout, and did magnificently well against anything Liverpool tried in midfield. Typically good in the pass and hard in the tackle, a good showing from Colback. That said, Michael Turner and John O'Shea also had decent shouts.

So as we thought before the match, it wouldn't be particularly pretty without Sessegnon, but it was effective football, and very effective at that. The resolute defending was fantastic, and we took our chances where Liverpool didn't to grab three valuable points.

Those three points move us up to 8th in the league, just two points behind today's losers. It also puts to bed a few things which have lurked over us this month. First of all the fact Martin O'Neill has a less than stellar record in the month of March - so far in 2012 he's unbeaten. Plus of course there's the fact we hardly ever beat Liverpool, and today we proved we're perfectly capable of mixing it with them, and have taken four points from them this season.

All in all, delighted with the result, and that's all that really matters. Now on to next week, to beat the other half Liverpool.

Ha'way The Lads!

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