Liverpool moved to within a point of Premier League leaders Chelsea with a nervy 2-1 win over Sunderland sealed by goals from Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge on Wednesday.
Ki Sung-yeung’s 76th-minute header for relegation-threatened Sunderland ensured a tense finish at Anfield, with Liverpool forced to hang on to stay in strong contention for a first league title since 1990.
Gerrard’s 25-metre free kick in the 39th minute gave the hosts a 1-0 lead at the break and it looked like they would saunter to victory after Sturridge’s deflected goal in the 48th.
It did not turn out that way.
Liverpool’s seventh straight league win lifted the team two points above Manchester City, which has two games in hand over the sides above them, but this was not as convincing as its previous six victories – when the Reds had scored at least three goals each game.
As halftime approached, the home fans were gripped with nerves that their team was going to waste a great chance to close on Chelsea but Gerrard stepped up.
Santiago Vergini escaped with just a yellow card when he hauled down Luis Suarez when the Argentine defender was the last man. Sunderland hadn’t escaped, though, as Gerrard curled the resulting free kick into the top corner for his ninth goal in 2014.
Given Liverpool’s effervescent attacking play this season, it was no surprise when the second goal arrived less than three minutes into the second half. Sturridge collected a short ball from Jordan Henderson and curled a shot that deflected off Sunderland defender Wes Brown and into the corner.
“We’re going to win the league,” was the chant roared out from The Kop.
That goal ensured two Liverpool strikers have scored at least 20 league goals in the same season for the first time in 50 years, when Roger Hunt and Ian St. John were prolific for the Reds.
Suarez’s current haul stands at 28.
It also took the Suarez-Sturridge partnership to 48 goals this campaign – and it almost became 49 in the 72nd minute when Sturridge crashed a shot against the crossbar.
In Wednesday’s other game, West Ham ended a three-game losing streak as an own-goal by James Chester secured a 2-1 win over 10-man Hull in a match between two mid-table teams.