Sunderland 2-2 Liverpool
Attendance: 46, 494
Jermain Defoe scored two penalties as Sunderland ushered in 2017 with a credible 2-2 draw against Liverpool at the Stadium of Light.
The script looked set when Jurgen Klopp’s side took a 1-0 lead through Daniel Sturridge, but it took just six minutes for the Black Cats to level as Defoe swept home from the penalty spot.
Sunderland continued to frustrate the Reds but they were denied a stonewall penalty before the hour mark, and it looked like costing them dear when Sadio Mane restored Liverpool’s advantage from close range.
However, the former Southampton forward swiftly turned from hero to villain and when he was judge to have handled Seb Larsson’s free-kick, Defoe had a chance to thwart the title chasers once and for all.
There was never any doubt, and a jubilant Defoe ensured a Happy New Year on Wearside.
Sunderland made three changes to the side who fell to defeat at Burnley with Donald Love, Didier Ndong and Jack Rodwell named in the starting XI.
Lamine Kone and Victor Anichebe – both forced off in the opening 45 minutes at Turf Moor – missed out, with Billy Jones unavailable due to suspension.
Michael Ledger George Honeyman, Elliot Embleton and Josh Maja were named on the bench.
Liverpool bossed the opening ten minutes with their dynamic forward line teasing and probing the Sunderland defence, but the first save of the game was made by Simon Mignolet who did well to hold Defoe’s 25-yard drive.
Within seconds Liverpool broke in numbers and clever ball from Roberto Firmino allowed Sturridge a sight at goal, but a superb low stop from Vito Mannone denied the England international.
And the Italian was again forced into action on nine minutes, this time denying Gini Wijnaldum as the former Newcastle United midfielder sent a rasping effort towards goal.
The pendulum continued to swing as both sides abandoned cautiousness and went in search of an opener, with Mignolet flying to his left to deny Rodwell before Firmino ballooned an effort over the top.
Like his opposite number, Mannone was again key to ensuring parity remained as the Italian leapt to his right to deny Sturridge, but with 20 minutes on the clock Liverpool took the lead.
Sturridge was the scorer but there was little Sunderland could do to deny the Reds, with the striker reacting quickly to reverse the direction of Dejan Lovren’s wayward volley as his header looped into the net.
The Black Cats’ response was emphatic.
Within six minutes Moyes’ side were level as Defoe dispatched an unerring penalty beyond Mignolet after Ndong was sent tumbling in the box.
The next ten minutes saw Sunderland pile forward as the Reds were rocked on Wearside, but they squandered a key opportunity to take the lead when Defoe was sent through by Januzaj and Mignolet made a big save.
Backed by a crowd exceeding 46,000, the Black Cats continued to pile forward and their work in and out of possession left Liverpool bereft of creativity as the half-time whistle sounded on Wearside.
Sunderland continue to frustrate the visitors’ through hard work, grit and determination, but Klopp’s side fired a warning shot on 56 minutes as Mane almost connected with Nathaniel Clyne’s driven cross.
However, controversy followed at the opposite end as Januzaj’s cross clearly struck the outstretched arm of Emre Can inside the penalty.
The referee waved play on and it proved costly for Sunderland as their resilience was finally broken in the 73rd minute.
Seconds after making a stunning save to deny Sturridge, Mannone was helpless to deny the unmarked Mane who couldn’t believe his luck as the ball arrived in his path at the back post.
The Senegal international did the rest and wheeled away to celebrate as Sunderland claimed for offside, but decisively the flick which made all the difference came off the head of Djilobodji.
But the drama was far from over.
With just six minutes remaining Larsson’s free-kick was blocked by Mane and the referee indicated hand ball, thus handing Defoe the chance to seal a priceless point for the Black Cats.
And he did just that.
Sunderland: Mannone, van Aanholt, Djilobodji, Larsson, Rodwell (Manquillo 65), Borini, O’Shea, Ndong, Defoe, Love, Januzaj (Khazri 79).
Substitutes: Mika, Honeyman, Maja, Embleton, Ledger.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner (Moreno 46), Lallana, Can, Wijnaldum (Origi 73), Mane, Sturridge (Lucas 80), Firmino.
Subs not used: Karius, Stewart, Ejaria, Alexander-Arnold.