Sunderland 2-2 Liverpool: Reds fail to close gap on Premier League leaders Chelsea
By Jack Wilkinson
Last Updated: 03/01/17 6:28am
Liverpool missed the chance to close the gap on Premier League leaders Chelsea as they were held to a thrilling 2-2 draw at Sunderland.
Daniel Sturridge headed only his second Premier League goal of the season to hand the Merseysiders the lead on 19 minutes, but they were pegged back within six minutes as Jermain Defoe converted a penalty after Ragnar Klavan's foul on Didier Ndong.
Sadio Mane put a dominant Liverpool side ahead on 72 minutes but he soon turned to villain, blocking a Sebastian Larsson free-kick with his arm to hand Sunderland a second penalty.
Defoe made no mistake from 12 yards for the second time as the hosts claimed a vital point in their battle to avoid the drop - the Black Cats are now one point from safety.
For Liverpool, who saw their four-game winning streak end, they remain second, five points adrift of Chelsea having played a game more.
Liverpool made the start you would expect from a team in their league position, dominating the opening exchanges, but it was the hosts who created the first opening on six minutes as Defoe's 25-yard drive called Simon Mignolet into action.
His opposite number was then tested twice in the space of a minute, first to deny Sturridge's low effort before Georginio Wijnaldum's curling shot was tipped over.
Mignolet was alert to keep Jack Rodwell's 13th-minute snap shot out, before Mannone was on hand to thwart Sturridge's curling, goal-bound effort five minutes later.
Larsson was inches away from turning Adam Lallana's low cross into his own net but Sunderland's resolve would soon be broken.
It proved to be third time lucky for Sturridge, though, as he reacted quickest to Dejan Lovren's scuffed shot to send a looping header over Mannone on his first Premier League start since October's draw with Manchester United.
But Liverpool's lead was short-lived as Ndong's purposeful run in between Wijnaldum and Klavan into the area tempted the centre-back into a clumsy challenge, and referee Anthony Taylor did not hesitate in pointing to the spot.
Defoe stepped up to stroke home his 10th goal of the season, becoming the fourth player in Premier League history to achieve the feat in 10 different seasons.
It should have been two moments later when Defoe latched on to Adnan Januzaj's through pass only for Mignolet to get a hand on the ball as he attempted to round the goalkeeper, before Fabio Borini made a hash of the follow up.
Mannone and Sturridge continued their personal duel on 37 minutes, with the Black Cats stopper gathering a dipping effort before Wijnaldum scuffed a shot after great work from James Milner and Firmino.
Liverpool took control after interval and should have restored their lead on 56 minutes when both Sturridge and Mane failed to get on the end of Nathaniel Clyne's stunning cross.
Borini and Defoe saw shots blocked as Sunderland grew into the game, before David Moyes was incensed after Emre Can's clear handball went unpunished on 58 minutes.
Sturridge and Lallana combine brilliant on 71 minutes to create an opening for the England striker to slot his second, but Mannone was on hand again to smother his effort.
But, from the resulting corner, Liverpool regained the lead, Mane in the right place at the far post to turn a flick-on home.
The lead would last just 12 minutes though as Mane inexplicably throw his arm into the path of Larsson's free-kick, allowing Defoe to send Mignolet the wrong way.
Liverpool quest for a winner proved fruitless as they lost ground in the title race, while Sunderland breathed life into their survival bid with an encouraging start to 2017.
Sunderland: Mannone (8), Love (6), O'Shea (6), Djilobodji (7), Van Aanholt (6), Larsson (5), Ndong (6), Rodwell (6), Januzaj (5), Defoe (8), Borini (6).
Used subs: Khazri (4), Manquillo (4).
Liverpool: Mignolet (7), Clyne (7), Lovren (8), Klavan (6), Milner (5), Can (6), Wijnaldum (6), Lallana (7), Mane (6), Firmino (6), Sturridge (7).
Used subs: Moreno (6), Lucas (5), Origi (5).
Man of the Match: Jermain Defoe.