Liverpool defeat Sunderland to move within 1 point of league leader Chelsea
By Steve Douglas ,AP
March 28, 2014, 12:08 am TWN
LIVERPOOL, England -- Title-chasing Liverpool overcame an attack of nerves to squeeze to a 2-1 win over Sunderland and move to within a point of leader Chelsea in the Premier League on Wednesday.
Steven Gerrard's free kick and Daniel Sturridge's deflected shot put Liverpool two goals clear by the 48th minute, but the pressure of being a serious challenger for the title for the first time since 2009 showed in the final half-hour.
Ki Sung-yeung's 76th-minute header came amid a dominant spell for the relegation-threatened visitors and Liverpool survived some hair-raising moments in the last minutes to seal a seventh straight league win.
Hope has turned into expectation at Anfield these past few weeks as Liverpool — the dominant side in England in the late 1970s and 1980s — revives its glory days to launch a title challenge against all the odds. Its players' loss of composure in the latter stages was telling, and it is set to get even more nervy over the next few weeks with seven games left.
"We have had a wonderful season until now, but there is still a way to go and the message to the supporters is to keep believing," Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. "As the season goes on, we will embrace the pressure and enjoy it."
The victory lifted Liverpool into second place — two points above Manchester City, which has two games in hand over the sides above them. But this was not as convincing as the Reds' previous six victories, when they scored at least three goals every game to cement their status as the Premier League entertainers.
"The game was set up for a big party, four or five goals," said Sunderland manager Gus Poyet, who added: "My friends in Uruguay didn't send me one text before the game ... they thought we'd be destroyed."
The game certainly looked like it would go that way when Sturridge found the net, via a deflection off Wes Brown, for his 20th goal of the campaign. That ensured two Liverpool players have scored at least 20 times in the same season for the first time in 50 years, when Roger Hunt and Ian St. John were prolific in leading the line for the Reds.