x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Liverpool steer to victory thanks to new hero

David Ngog emerges as a new Anfield hero scoring one and creating another to seal the win against Sunderland.

David Ngog acknowledges the Anfield crowd as he is substituted. He scored one and created another in Liverpool's 2-0 win against Sunderland.
David Ngog acknowledges the Anfield crowd as he is substituted. He scored one and created another in Liverpool's 2-0 win against Sunderland.

Liverpool discovered an unlikely new hero as they finally gave manager Rafael Benitez something to smile about. The French teenager David Ngog, making his full home debut, scored one goal and helped create the second for Yossi Benayoun as Liverpool cut Manchester United's lead at the top to four points. Of course Chelsea did the same by winning at Portsmouth, but what was Liverpool's second home league win since Boxing Day lifted the gloom that has descended on Anfield following the shambles at Middlesbrough at the weekend. Benitez had looked like a man with a huge weight on his shoulders before this match, but he found some comfort in a decent display ahead of next week's Champions League showdown with Real Madrid. Manchester United may well have two games in hand on Liverpool, but at least the title race is not a procession just yet. Ngog's pace and energy not quite able to make up for the loss of Fernando Torres' brilliance, but he certainly showed spirit. Sunderland should have been ahead after just four minutes when Kenwyne Jones ran clear after Martin Skrtel's slip, but Jose Reina saved well to his right. Steven Gerrard, twice, Ngog and Albert Riera all had shots charged down, while Marton Fulop saved well to his left to keep out a Dirk Kuyt drive. Ngog's enthusiasm got the better of him when he was then booked after 15 minutes for a foul on Tal Ben Haim. Fulop made an outstanding save after 31 minutes, finger-tipping the ball away at full-stretch from his right post, when Riera's low drive was deflected off Leadbitter. Javier Mascherano then saw a dipping 30-yard effort graze the bar, before Insua, Xabi Alonso and Gerrard all tried their luck with Sunderland increasingly forced back into their box on defence. One break inspired by a fine Gerrard tackle on Kieran Richardson allowed Ngog to set up Mascherano on the right, but his drive was into the side-netting. Liverpool started the second period at a higher tempo, with Benayoun willing to run at defenders.

And it was Benayoun who swept the ball out to Riera on the left to pave the way for Liverpool to take the lead after 52 minutes. Riera sent over a deep cross that Gerrard headed back into the six-yard box for Ngog fire home his first league goal for the club. Sunderland were forced to come forward, and Steed Malbranque saw a shot from the right fly over the bar. After 62 minutes Sunderland brought on Djibril Cisse for Leadbitter, the former Liverpool man getting a rousing reception from the Anfield crowd. Four minutes later Liverpool got their second. Again Ngog was involved, hooking the ball back across goal for Fulop to palm away only as far as Benayoun, who punished the error. The next ovation was for Ngog. He had been struggling with cramp and was replaced by Lucas after 71 minutes. Lucas, with a header, and Babel ? shooting from the edge of the box ? threatened to extend the lead, but Liverpool could not muster a third. *PA Sport