- Benteke’s 6th PL goal of the season
- Two Benteke-sealed wins in a row
- Reds climb to 7th in the PL
- Black Cats stuck in 19th
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For a second-straight game, Liverpool are 1-0 victors with thanks to a goal scored by Christian Benteke. Wednesday’s victory, sealed by the Belgian striker’s 46th-minute goal, away to Sunderland comes just four days after the $50-million summer signing sealed the Reds’ home victory over Leicester City on Boxing Day.
The game’s first real chance for a goal came in the 16th minute, when Jermain Defoe unleashed a left-footed strike from 20 yards out. Simon Mignolet was quick to rise up, though, and push the ball over the crossbar.
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Liverpool went agonizingly closer to opening the scoring in the 25th minute, when Roberto Firmino‘s right-footed blast from 25 yards out clanged off the right-hand post of Vito Mannone. On first viewing, it appeared the Italian ‘keeper had been beaten by the Brazilian’s swerving effort, but replays confirmed Mannone got the slightest of touches to send the ball onto the post and keep his side level.
It was Firmino who 10 minutes later forced Mannone back into action. Nathaniel Clyne whipped in a cross from the right wing and Firmino rose above the crowd to head the ball on target, but Mannone leapt back across the face of goal to push the ball wide.
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The second half began ever so quickly to Liverpool’s delight, as Benteke bagged the game’s opening goal just 22 seconds into the second period of play (above video). Adam Lallana played a speculative ball through the heart of the Sunderland midfield and defense, and not a single Black Cats player took initiative enough to deal with the threat, instead letting the ball roll through for the big Belgian, who once one on one with Mannone, calmly slotted his right-footed shot inside the far post.
Sunderland struggled to take the game to Liverpool after that, as the Reds enjoyed long spells of possession during the final 45 minutes and threatened to extend their lead to 2-0 far more than Sunderland did to make it 1-1.
Benteke was also the most likely to have double the Reds’ lead, but failed to convert a one-on-one chance in the 92nd minute after getting behind the entire Sunderland defense. With only Mannone to contend with, Benteke somehow managed to hit the ball straight into the legs of the ‘keeper. 1-0, the game remained and would finish.
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With the victory, the Reds, now on 30 points, climb three places in the PL table, from 10th to seventh. Behind Manchester United only on goal differential, Jurgen Klopp‘s side now sits five points back of Tottenham Hotspur for the fourth and final UEFA Champions League place. Sunderland, meanwhile, remain 19th in the league, seven points behind 17th-place Swansea City outside the relegation zone.