Team Selection: Forced, But Effective
With even more players missing due to injuries and suspension David Moyes was forced to readjust his team once again, and it was to good effect.
Donald Love came in at right back to replace Billy Jones - who missed out having picked up five yellow cards - and the former Manchester United youngster did enough to warrant keeping his place in the side going forward. You might remember that after a good display in the win over Watford, he was then replaced at Old Trafford by the returning Jones, who didn't exactly cover himself in glory in either that game or the Burnley defeat days later.
Lamine Kone's leg injury meant that there was a place in the back four for John O'Shea, and he was actually very good - far better than against Burnley, anyhow. He'll be expected to play in most of our games this month and we need a similar performance from the Republic of Ireland international when we face Stoke in a couple of weeks.
There were two changes in the middle of the park too, with Jack Rodwell and Didier Ndong coming in, and both men had probably their best games of the season. Rodwell seemed to thrive in his role as a midfield dictator, whilst Ndong's marauding performance was more like the type of showing you expect from a player valued at £13m.
All in all, the changes made by David Moyes for this fixture can only be seen as positive ones. All of the players that came in to the side had good games and it's bittersweet knowing that Didier Ndong is now going to miss the rest of our games this month whilst he is away on international duty - finding someone that can replace his energy and tenacity with our limited resources is going to be tough.
Gav's rating: 10/10 - No complaints from me this week!
Tactics: Back To Basics (Again)
Sunderland's shape drifted between being a 4-4-2 and a 4-5-1 depending on who had the ball, and it seemed to suit the players that we had at our disposal.
It was almost like there was a realisation that the way that we played against Burnley absolutely suffocated us and that we needed to get back to operating in a way that suited our stretched squad of players.
Liverpool have an incredibly slow defensive pairing, so we looked to play long balls down the sides to get us further up the pitch, and it worked.
Sebastian Larsson's job was pretty much just to cover the space left whenever Patrick van Aanholt got forward and he did a decent job of it - that was probably his best game since returning back from injury.
Perhaps the most influential tactic that we played was to press and harry Liverpool when in their half of the pitch. Moyes had the likes of Fabio Borini and Didier Ndong chasing down every loose ball and it was what kept us competitive against a midfield three of Can, Lallana and Wijnaldum who, lets be honest, are not known for their grit and determination. Liverpool certainly missed Jordan Henderson in the middle and it showed due to the way that Sunderland opted to attack their central players off the ball.
The only real negative was that we looked disorganised on set pieces and the lack of aerial presence in our side cost us - without Jason Denayer, Victor Anichebe and Lamine Kone we have an incredibly small side.
Gav's rating: 8/10 - Can't overrate it too much - we did concede two goals after all!
Substitutions: Solid - Nothing More Or Less
It's somewhat pleasing to note that David Moyes only made two changes this time around and neither were due to injuries during the game.
Javier Manquillo came on after 65 minutes for Jack Rodwell and whilst it caused us to reshuffle our team shape somewhat, it was probably for the best.
Rodwell has not played in a number of months so to expect him to be able to maintain his energy levels beyond an hour or so just isn't fair or realistic. Having seen Liverpool gain some joy down their left hand side through half-time substitute Alberto Moreno, Moyes opted to put Manquillo up against the Spanish left-back and it worked fairly well - this is a tactic we've seen employed by Moyes on numerous occasions this season to a mostly positive effect.
Moyes' second and final substitution of the afternoon came when he replaced Adnan Januzaj with Wahbi Khazri for the final fifteen minutes of the match. Januzaj has been much improved in recent weeks, and though he had played well this was merely a like-for-like change in order to give us some fresh legs at a time in the game when we were behind and Liverpool were looking to cut our throats.
I say this most weeks but it would have been nice to have seen Khazri introduced slightly earlier, but we can't grumble too much.
Gav's rating: 8/10 - Decent tactical changes from the manager!
Post-Match Comments: Home Form Duly Noted
David Moyes was keen to acknowledge that Sunderland's recent results at the Stadium of Light have improved, something which he seems to have made one of his priorities since overcoming our bad start in October.
In Moyes' full-time email, he said:
We had a good team out and they played well; we worked really hard to keep in touch with Liverpool and to come from behind twice was a great credit to the players.
Recently, our record at home has been very good. We’ve won a few games and that’s why, even today, it was important that we didn’t lose and attacked more. What we need to do now is build on it, but I think today it would have been tough to get three points.
I always think you need a penalty taker who scores goals because you get a few a season and when you get them they’re important, and since I’ve been here Jermain has been great.
I thought we worked hard to get in situations and stuck at it, so credit to the players for that.
We’re beginning to play a bit better here and I think the crowd picked up on the players’ energy today. We didn’t show it in the last game but we did today and we needed it because we were playing against a very energetic Liverpool side. We deserved our point, we really did.
Moyes' and his players were not expected to gain anything from the Liverpool game and the fact that we did - by coming from behind twice - speaks volumes about the kind of mentality that some of these players actually have, even if, annoyingly, they don't show it on a more regular basis.
Moyes is often inconsistent with his decision-making and tactics but the Liverpool game showed that when the Sunderland gaffer doesn't have to make forced changes due to injuries, he is capable of decent in-game management. The decision to bring on Javier Manquillo to add better cover down Liverpool's left hand side is perhaps most descriptive of this.
Gav's Rating: 7/10 - Poor marking on set pieces could have cost us, but a good result nonetheless.