To set the scene for this fixture we may as well go back to the fun and games that was the summer of 2016. We’d just come off the back of a season in the Premier League that finally provided optimism for the future and we looked forward to England taking part in the upcoming European Championships.
Sam Allardyce had managed to turn things around following his appointment and following the January transfer window of 2016 had a team that looked like could take us beyond an annual relegation scrap. Performances towards the latter part of the season against Everton and Chelsea at the Stadium of Light provided all the evidence we needed.
Then Roy Hodgson and the England squad did their thing. Harry Kane was inexplicitly taking corners and Iceland became everyone’s least favourite frozen food store.
This resulted in a now infamous friendly at Hartlepool United where Allardyce spent the first half on his phone and left at half-time to answer the call of the FA. In fairness to Ellis Short and the gang, they moved swiftly and appointed David Moyes as our new manager.
An appointment that didn’t have too many detractors when it was first announced, despite Moyes coming fresh from disappointing tenures at Real Sociedad and Manchester United. Ten games into the Premier League season, this had all changed as we had yet to record a victory.
By the turn of the year, we had four wins on the board and had moved ourselves up to the dizzying heights of 17th in the table and next up was the visit of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool to the Stadium of Light, where the German was beginning to gather momentum.
The Lads were two points adrift of moving out of the relegation zone as we chased Crystal Palace and Liverpool were second in the table, sitting six points behind leaders Chelsea.
Our previous result going into the fixture against Liverpool was a disaster in a season full of disasters as we went down 4-1 at Burnley, after which Moyes had branded his players “useless”, so hopes weren’t high as we attempted to change our fortunes in 2017.
Temperatures hovered around freezing as Sunderland surprisingly started the game brightly and both keepers’ were forced into making early saves, but on 19 minutes, Liverpool had an element of luck as Daniel Sturridge scored his second of the season.
A corner was half-cleared and Dejan Lovren half-volleyed the ball back into the area onto Sturridge’s head to give the visitors the lead. But, Liverpool were without Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho and around five minutes later Jermain Defoe levelled from the spot after Ndong was fouled in the area.
A few minutes later we should have gone in front but former Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet saved well from Defoe after good work by Januzaj. The hope of taking all three points was fleeting however, as Liverpool dominated possession and forced Vito Mannone, who was taking his chance with Jordan Pickford out injured, into a number of smart saves.
The hope of taking a point all but went out of the window with just under twenty minutes left on the clock when Klopp’s side took the lead. A corner from the right was directed across the face of goal via an attempted Djilobodji clearance and made its way to Sadio Mané at the back post who scored from close range.
But, with six minutes remaining, a Seb Larsson free-kick was bizarrely handled in the box by Liverpool’s scorer Mané and Defoe once again stepped up to send Mignolet the wrong way to give Sunderland a point - one of only 24 that season.
Monday 2nd January 2017
Sunderland 2-2 Liverpool
[Defoe (pen) 25, (pen) 84’ - Sturridge 19’, Mane 72’]
Sunderland: Mannone, Love, O’Shea, Djilobodji, van Aanholt, Borini, Rodwell (Manquillo), Ndong, Larsson, Januzaj (Khazri), Defoe Substitutes not used: Domingues, Ledger, Embleton, Honeyman, Maja
Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Milner (Moreno), Can, Lovren, Klaven, Lallana, Wijnaldum (Origi), Sturridge (Leiva), Firmino, Mane Substitutes not used: Karius, Stewart, Alexander-Arnold, Ejaria