Sunderland 0-1 Liverpool: Christian Benteke with second-half winner
By James Walker-Roberts
Last Updated: 31/12/15 9:43am
Christian Benteke's rapid second-half goal gave Liverpool a hard-fought 1-0 win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday.
The striker scored just 22 seconds after the break to condemn Sunderland to a fifth straight defeat and ensure Liverpool will finish the year seventh in the Premier League.
Benteke should have made it 2-0 late on when he was denied by Vito Mannone while Roberto Firmino hit the post for the visitors in the first half.
Sunderland worked hard but struggled to create any clear chances, with Fabio Borini going closest when he shot narrowly wide in the 33rd minute.
The defeat means Sunderland end the year second from bottom in the table, seven points from safety.
Liverpool, meanwhile, finish 2015 with back-to-back 1-0 wins and are now level on 30 points with Manchester United in the table.
Jurgen Klopp made just the one change from the Boxing Day win over Leicester as Benteke, who scored the winner against the Foxes, replaced Divock Origi.
Sunderland made four alterations from their defeat to Manchester City, when they were 3-0 down after less than 25 minutes.
Eager to avoid a repeat, Sunderland kept the visitors at bay in the early stages and it was Jermain Defoe, brought in to replace Steven Fletcher, who had the first sight of goal when he forced Simon Mignolet to tip over.
Firmino had the visitors' best chances of the half as he saw a shot brilliantly tipped onto the post by Mannone after 25 minutes and then had a header kept out by the keeper.
Borini shot just wide at the other end as Sunderland continued to threaten on the break.
However, their good work was undone just 22 seconds into the second half as Adam Lallana diverted Nathaniel Clyne's pass through for Benteke and he finished past Mannone.
Rather than build on the goal, Liverpool gave the ball away cheaply and invited pressure from the hosts, much to Klopp's frustration on the sideline.
The German became more and more animated as Borini cut inside and shot at Mignolet and then Duncan Watmore's shot was diverted wide.
Liverpool should have put the game to bed as Jordon Ibe blazed over and then Benteke had a one-on-one chance saved, but in the end the misses did not prove costly.
Sunderland: Mannone (7), Jones (5), Coates (6), Brown (6), Van Aanholt (6), Cattermole (6), M'Vila (6), Rodwell (5), Johnson (5), Borini (6), Defoe (5).
Subs: Lens (5), Yedlin (5), Watmore (6).
Liverpool: Mignolet (6), Clyne (7), Lovren (6), Sakho (6), Moreno (5), Can (6), Henderson (6), Lallana (6), Firmino (6), Coutinho (7), Benteke (7).
Subs: Ibe (5), Lucas (5), Toure (5).
Man of the match: Christian Benteke.