Reds win as Rodgers' men finally show signs of progress
(Lazar Markovic 9)
This wasn't scintillating stuff by Liverpool, and Sunderland are by no means world-beaters.
The Reds eked out a 1-0 victory at the Stadium of Light via a Lazar Markovic goal yesterday. This was a win which, considering the mediocrity of the Black Cats these days, was really nothing to shout about.
But this was certainly a vast improvement from the helter-skelter football Liverpool dished out earlier in the season.
Never mind that they squandered many chances that they should have put away.
Or that they failed to really take advantage of their numerical superiority, after Sunderland's Liam Bridcutt was sent off in the 49th minute for collecting a second yellow card.
Liverpool are finally looking like a team, for the first time after Luis Suarez left them at the end of last term.
Manager Brendan Rodgers has drawn plenty of flak in recent months. Now, it's time to give the man due credit.
One thing he cannot be accused of is losing the plot. Amid the chaos, he somehow steadied the ship.
The stability will do the Reds plenty of good, and give them much-needed room to consolidate.
This win over Sunderland stretched the team's unbeaten Premiership run to five games, their best spell in this campaign.
Rodgers felt confident enough to even give Raheem Sterling a mid-season break, and the England star posted a photo online of himself wearing sunglasses and a sun hat in Jamaica.
If there was a blemish from yesterday's outing, it was the injury to skipper Steven Gerrard, who was replaced by Dejan Lovren at half-time.
But it was a satisfactory performance all the same.
Rodgers' men are beginning to show some semblance of cohesion, and they have managed to add purpose to their fighting spirit.
There were also signs that some of the new signings are finally settling down to life at Anfield.
The much-maligned Markovic worked the right wing with enthusiasm and displayed glimpses of the potential Liverpool bought into.
His work rate was impressive, as was his attacking play particularly in the first half.
He should have earned his side an early penalty when he was brought down clumsily in the box by Wes Brown, but referee Craig Pawson waved play on.
But when a clear chance fell to him in the ninth minute, he made no mistake with a right-footed stab on the ball that took it through the goalkeeper's legs.
His growing confidence was most evident when he later attempted an acrobatic long-range shot that crashed against the woodwork.
Behind him, playing on the right side of a three-man backline, Emre Can continued his decent form.
It was through one of his overlapping runs which provoked Bridcutt's sudden rush of blood to the head that drew the dismissal.
Alberto Moreno's shift in midfield was a pretty solid one too.
Towards the end, there were a few nervous moments as Sunderland, this season's draw specialists, attempted to find a late goal that would have secured them a 12th draw in 21 matches. But it never came.
Liverpool survived, hanging on for long enough before the referee blew for full-time.
They had just ground out the three points.
They certainly still lack the ruthlessness.
But the belief is back.
He (Markovic) is a young player, 20 years of age and is just settling in to the whole culture of English football. It was an outstanding team performance. We had great control of the game but I suppose the only disappointment is we did not have more goals.
— Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers on Lazar Markovic and the match