Danny Ings scored a brace as Liverpool under-23s earned their fourth straight Premier League 2 win and forced Sunderland to return home empty handed on Sunday afternoon.
The Reds dominated throughout but had to wait until the second period to make the breakthrough as Ings provided the ultimate poachers finish from close range.
Ings then doubled the hosts’ advantage on 64 minutes as he broken Sunderland’s offside trap to loop his header over a helpless Max Stryjek.
The visitors were tireless throughout but were forced to feed on scraps as Trent Alexander-Arnold rammed the ball past Stryjek’s near post to make it 3-0 in the 73rd minute to seal all the points at Prenton Park.
The young Black Cats travelled to Merseyside keen to arrest last Sunday’s home defeat to Manchester City and rekindle their resilient touch that has been ever present for the last 12 months.
Joel Asoro returned to the starting XI to partner Josh Maja who made his senior bow in midweek as the first-team defeated QPR in the third round of the EFL Cup.
It was a new look 4-4-2 formation for the under-23s as they looked to frustrate a Liverpool side who had won their last three league games, a run which included an emphatic 6-2 mauling over Tottenham Hotspur last time out.
With Ings included in the Reds’ starting line-up, Sunderland’s backline had their work cut out from the first whistle as the former Burnley man crafted an opening on 10 minutes which forced Stryjek to parry his drive.
The development side failed to clear their lines and that allowed Liverpool to have a second bite of the cherry as Tommy Robson cleared off the line.
Alexander-Arnold posed (T) Robson questions throughout down the right flank as the Reds began to turn the screw with Ings heading wide and then Alexander-Arnold testing Stryjek with a low stop to his left on the stroke of half-time.
But just two minutes after the restart the hosts' pressure finally paid off as Ings tapped home a rebound following Stryjek’s save from point-blank range.
For the next 10 minutes Sunderland were forced to weather an intense storm as wave after wave of attacks crashed against the young Black Cats’ backline - Ovie Ejaria unleashed a rasping drive from 20 yards while Ings put a free header wide from Alexander-Arnold’s cross from the right.
Welsh’s side never really found their rhythm and Ings doubled Liverpool’s lead with a diving header from 12 yards which looped over a helpless Stryjek before Alexander-Arnold made sure of the points as he rammed the ball past Stryjek at his near post to inflict a second-straight defeat on Sunderland.
Liverpool under-23s starting XI: Grabara, Alexander-Arnold, Randall, Ilori (Brewitt, 85), Whelan, Stewart, Wilson, Chirivella, Ings, Ejaria (Brannagan, 73), Woodburn (Lennon, 77)
Unused subs: Firth, Maguire
Sunderland under-23s: Stryjek, J Robson, T Robson, E Robson, Ledger, Brady, Honeyman, Beadling, Asoro (Nelson, 55), Maja (Embleton 45), Greenwood (Molyneux, 78)
Unused subs: Pain, Wright