Sunderland heap further misery on Liverpool

Sunderland 1 Liverpool 0

Darren Bent staked a further claim for a place in England's World Cup squad as Sunderland heaped further misery on Liverpool.

However, he did so in controversial circumstances as the visitors were left fuming over the fifth-minute strike which secured the Black Cats' first victory over a 'top four' team since their return to the Barclays Premier League.

Bent's eighth goal of the season came when his shot was deflected past goalkeeper Pepe Reina by a red beach ball which had been thrown onto the pitch, although referee Mike Jones had little option but to award the goal.

But if the visitors felt aggrieved at the manner in which their third successive defeat in all competitions was sealed, they could have few complaints about the result in front of a crowd of 47,327 at the Stadium of Light.

With the injured Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres missing, they were a shadow of the side which pushed Manchester United so close last season as they slipped to their fourth league defeat of the campaign despite a late, late rally.

After their side's heroics at Old Trafford a fortnight ago, when only a late Anton Ferdinand own goal gave the reigning champions a point, the Wearside faithful arrived believing a win over one of the Premier League's traditional powers was a distinct possibility.

And if they needed further confirmation that it could be their day, they had to wait only five minutes.

There was nothing fortunate about the way Lee Cattermole and Andy Reid combined to open up the Reds down the right, and when the Irishman picked out leading scorer Bent beyond the far post, fate intervened.

Reina thought he had the striker's shot covered and could only look on in horror when it hit the beach ball and flew past him into the net.

Sunderland sensed an opportunity and could have been out of sight by half-time.

Bent might have completed a hat-trick but headed a 22nd-minute Reid cross straight at Reina and then glanced Phil Bardsley's driven ball wide of the far post seven minutes before the break.

Liverpool repeatedly found themselves under pressure as Reid, Cattermole and Steed Malbranque got forward to support strikers Bent and Kenwyne Jones as a back three of Jamie Carragher, Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger were swamped by red and white shirts.

But they managed to survive further mishap and gradually eased their way back into the game, although without ever putting Craig Gordon's goal under extreme pressure.

The Scotland international had to block Ryan Babel's 13th-minute shot on the turn at close quarters and was happy to see Fabio Aurelio's 27th-minute free-kick fly wide, but he was otherwise largely untroubled.

Bruce made a change at the break when his only specialist left-back, George McCartney, failed to re-appear, prompting a reshuffle.

Ferdinand moved across from centre-half as Lorik Cana dropped into central defence to accommodate teenage midfielder Jordan Henderson.

The newcomer almost made his mark within two minutes when his shot was blocked by Carragher, in the eyes of the home side with his arm, but Mr Jones waved play on.

Reina kept his side in it with 55 minutes gone when he blocked Bent's effort after the striker had run onto Jones' pass and rounded him.

The goalkeeper needed the help of the woodwork six minutes later after Bent capitalised on more poor defending, but saw his shot come back off the foot of the post.

Bruce and Benitez became embroiled in an angry touchline spat as the injured Jones was treated at length on the pitch before, like Cattermole minutes earlier, leaving on a stretcher.

Malbranque was denied by Carragher's last-ditch block but Yossi Benayoun squandered a glorious opportunity to level two minutes later when he fired high and wide from 16 yards.

Benitez threw on strikers Andriy Voronin and David Ngog in a desperate effort to rescue a point, and deep into seven minutes of stoppage time Gordon had to make a fine double save from Dirk Kuyt and Ngog to deny Liverpool an undeserved point.

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower