Throwback Thursday: Beachball nightmare exorcised as Liverpool hit Sunderland for three

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By @ajftbl

17th October 2009. Liverpool. Sunderland. Darren Bent. A beach ball. You know the rest.

In the reverse fixture on this day nine years ago, Liverpool were hoping to rectify this infamous moment in Premier League history by getting the three points at Anfield.

At this stage, Liverpool looked a shell of the side that came so close to the title the previous year, with top four hopes hanging by a thread. Nothing other than a win would do here as fourth-placed Spurs had a seven-point advantage over the Reds with just seven games to go in the season.

For Steve Bruce’s Sunderland, survival was almost within their grasp as they sat in 13th place, eight-points clear of the relegation zone. Any result at Anfield would bring them one step closer to that magical 40 point mark. Liverpool’s talisman Fernando Torres was in fine form heading into this one with five goals in the last three games.

The start to this game did not disappoint. Daniel Agger came close with a thunderous volley in the first minute and two minutes later, another volley would take place, this time hitting the back of the net. Fernando Torres would show why despite the Reds having a topsy-turvy season, he was still one of the hottest commodities in Europe.

The Spaniard controlled beautifully to leave Michael Turner in a daze and spectactularly volleyed the ball at an angle and it dipped into Craig Gordon’s net. Torres had produced many moments of magic in a Liverpool shirt, but perhaps this was his best.

Nevertheless, this was far from a one-man show as the whole Liverpool team dominated proceedings as Sunderland struggled to get any control of the game at all. A multitude of chances opened up for the Reds, with Agger coming close again, Maxi Rodriguez’s header forcing a strong save from Gordon, and the skipper Steven Gerrard firing just wide of the post.

At that point, Sunderland fans must have been wondering just how they were still in the game but eventually Liverpool would double their lead when Glen Johnson’s effort from 20 yards fortunately deflected in off Turner. Maybe not as fortunate as a beach ball deflection, but still fortunate nevertheless!

The speed of Liverpool’s movement was superb, a joy to watch. Agger was dominating the backline, Gerrard pulling the strings from midfield, Johnson bombing forward down the right flank and Maxi Rodriguez playing a part in every attack.

This was the sort of display we wish Liverpool could have produced more often this season as the side’s been plagued with inconsistency.

As the game reached the hour mark, Torres would bag his brace, following great play by Johnson. This would be the last real talking point of the game as Liverpool held on to secure a clean sheet. A faultless performance from start to finish, the only real complaint being that we didn’t score more!

A win that would be sure to put the pressure on Tottenham and Manchester City as the battle for fourth place drew closer to its thrilling climax. Still, Liverpool had to keep putting in performances like this and so replicating this performance at Birmingham the following week was absolutely pivotal.

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