As Sunderland were still finding their feet under new manager Peter Reid, the second round draw of the League Cup presented an opportunity to cause an upset with a trip to Anfield.
After saving Sunderland from dropping into the third tier the season before, Reid had a solid start to the new season with a third win in eight games coming four days prior in a 2-0 win at Luton Town.
Fans were optimistic about the season ahead with Paul Bracewell signing on from Newcastle for a third stint at the club, combining his role in midfield with the role of assistant manager. John Mullin was the only other name added to the playing staff in the summer of 1995 but it was clear by some of the performances early in the season that Sunderland were a different beast under Peter Reid.
Despite going a goal down after Steve McManaman’s long range strike after eight minutes, Sunderland looked dangerous against a strong Liverpool side, and were arguably the stronger of the two for long periods of the first half.
The away fans in the crowd of 25,579 were making it sound like a home game as they were in full voice behind the goal and, as Sunderland attacked the away end in the second half, they started to smell an equaliser.
After good work from Brian Atkinson to win the ball, Paul Bracewell played a neat one-two on the edge of the box before being taken down by David James as he knocked the ball past him to win a penalty for Sunderland.
Michael Gray stepped up in front of the away fans and although it was a decent strike to the goalkeepers left, it was at a nice height for David James to get a hand on it and keep it out. The rebound found itself back to Gray who had an opportunity to nod home but managed to put the header over the bar.
Then, with just over fifteen minutes left, Michael Thomas broke Sunderland’s hearts just as he did in the FA Cup final three years earlier with another long range effort. Taking the ball on his right foot from around twenty yards out, the former Arsenal midfielder curled the ball brilliantly past Alec Chamberlain in front of the Kop.
Despite going down by two goals heads didn’t drop and Sunderland kept plugging away for a goal, and they nearly grabbed one as Martin Smith hit the bar from 25 yards as he attempted to lob David James.
As the game ended 2-0 to Liverpool, the away fans showed their appreciation for a performance that proved that Sunderland were heading in the right direction under Peter Reid, and we went on to lose only once in the next thirteen League games.