Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sunderland 0 - 2 LiverpooL

Mohamed Sissoko picked an historic moment to score the first competitive goal of his career as Liverpool saw off battling Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Sissoko's 37th-minute strike was his club's 7,000th league goal and earned the praise of Rafael Benitez, whose joy was tempered by injury scares involving Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher.

Benitez said: "Sissoko can score more goals. He does not score many but now he has scored the 7,000th he will be in the record books all his life. I am really pleased for him."

Hyypia went off with a suspected broken nose and Carragher followed with a possible broken rib in a game which Benitez's men wrapped up four minutes from time through Andriy Voronin.

Voronin fired home after a fine pass from strike partner Fernando Torres on an afternoon when only the heroics of Craig Gordon in the home goal kept the scoreline down.

"I am really pleased but I wish we could have finished the game earlier for my health," added Benitez. "I think we showed the strength of our squad today."

Sunderland boss Roy Keane was not too downbeat about his team's display, which he regarded as a vast improvement on his side's dismal 3-0 capitulation at Wigan last week.

And things might have been even better for his spirited side had substitute Anthony Stokes slotted away a 24th minute chance after being sent clear in the box by Michael Chopra.

Keane said: "No-one likes losing football matches but I am slightly happier than I was last weekend and sometimes you have to lose games to teams with bigger and stronger squads.

"We showed good bits of quality ourselves and you are always in with a chance at 1-0 with five minutes to go. It would have been nice to have tested their keeper a little bit more."

Liverpool were well on top from the start and could have grabbed the lead after just 25 seconds when Greg Halford's dreadful back pass let in Voronin, who shot wide.

Xabi Alonso screwed a rising shot just wide in the 14th minute after Ryan Babel had cleverly laid off a Steve Finnan right-wing cross, but the expected succession of chances did not materialise.

Once again Paul McShane and Nyron Nosworthy held firm in the centre of the home defence, marshalled superbly by captain Dwight Yorke, and frustration slowly grew among the visitors.

That frustration should have increased in the 24th minute when Stokes, on for Richardson, squirmed a shot under Reina only for Daniel Agger to boot clear from the edge of the six-yard box.

That missed opportunity came back to haunt the home side in the 37th minute, when Sissoko latched onto a ball back by Voronin to fire past the helpless Gordon.

Gordon would go on to twice deny Torres with superb low saves which showed why Keane had no qualms about paying £9million for the former Hearts stopper.

Sunderland rallied in the second half and Ross Wallace's deep cross into the Reds box in the 68th minute was punched away by Reina under pressure as the Stadium of Light crowd sensed a comeback.

But Liverpool's front pair oozed class and Gordon was required again in the 79th minute to produce a point-blank save to deny Voronin in front of goal.

"Craig was a bit busy but that's what he's there for," added Keane. "When you play against teams like Liverpool if you think your keeper is not going to work hard you are in cloud cuckoo land."

Finally Voronin extinguished those lingering Stadium of Light dreams with four minutes to go with a clinical finish to wrap up a productive afternoon for Rafael Benitez.

Benitez added: "With Torres running at defenders and Voronin running in the lines, they are always going to pose problems for defenders."