Christian Benteke celebrates his goal with Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino.

Sunderland 0-1 Liverpool: Reds end 2015 in strong manner

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For a second successive game, Liverpool failed to create fireworks but ground out a result.

Jurgen Klopp knows that his honeymoon period at Anfield finished a long time ago and he's well aware plenty of work is needed at the Reds.

Whirlwind of a year

Nonetheless, the German will have been pleased with Liverpool's 1-0 victory at Sunderland in their final game of the year.


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2015 has been a whirlwind for Liverpool and when Jurgen Klopp took charge in October, it looked like a tornado had swept Anfield.

The Reds lacked confidence and character in the latter stages of Brendan Rodgers' reign and Klopp still has a massive job on his hands.

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His task is far from over but it's a work in progress and his philosophy is slowly being driven in at Liverpool; he's adding much-needed solidarity at the club.

Liverpool have rarely failed to amaze throughout 2015. From crushing victories away against Manchester City and Chelsea to the heavy 6-1 defeat at Stoke City on the final game of the 2014/15 season, it's been a rollercoaster of a ride.

They ended the year with a win against Sunderland but there's still plenty to improve on in 2016.

The Reds lacked quality at times in the north east and made hard-work of the relegation-battling Black Cats. However, they stuck to the task gamely and emerged winners, gritting their teeth when they needed to for the three points.

Sam Allardyce knows that every point counts as he looks to guide Sunderland out of the relegation scrap. They seemed up for the match and did not go down without a fight and pushed Liverpool's rearguard throughout.

Lovren continues to impress

Dejan Lovren's rich vein of form continued. He failed to settle in his maiden campaign and many questioned his £20 million price-tag but the Croatia international has looked a completely different player of late. He now looks a player of the top standard. who's performing with a vast amount of confidence

Mamadou Sakho still plays based on raw passion, which sometimes can be a positive and other times can cause his team significant problems in dangerous areas. The Frenchman needlessly hacked down Jermaine Defoe on the edge of his own box in the first-half and, luckily for Liverpool, Adam Johnson fired his free-kick over the bar.

Sakho improved after the break and it's likely that Klopp had a few words in his ear to calm him down and told him to keep it simple, which he did do.

Emre Can and Jordan Henderson continued their partnership in the middle of the midfield. Both were not scared to get their hands dirty and relished the physical battle. The duo have formed a very good relationship together in the heart of the pitch and it should continue to blossom in the New Year.

Philippe Coutinho was the Reds' chief protagonist in the final third and he took advantage of Sebastian Coates slip to feed in Roberto Firmino minutes into the match, but his control was sub par and the chance went begging.

Liverpool v Leicester City - Premier League

Attacking improvement

Firmino has faced a fair amount of critics in recent weeks, but he was much-improved at the Stadium Of Light. His movement was more direct and he looked to penetrate the Sunderland rearguard. The Brazil international almost scored a contender for goal of the season when a clever piece of footwork on the edge of the box took him away from Yann V'Milla and his bending shot was tipped onto the post by Vito Mannone.

Firmino was almost on target minutes later when his header was once again denied by Mannone. At first glance, the ex-Hoffenheim playmaker should have done better but he, like every other player, expected Nathaniel Clyne to be penalised for handball but play was allowed to continue.

Adam Lallana did not quite get to the grips of the game, but he provided the vital pass that gave Liverpool the breakthrough. Whether it was meant or it was the result of a poor first touch, Lallana's ball fell kindly into the path of Christian Benteke just seconds after the start of the second half.

Sunderland v Liverpool - Premier League

Benteke on target 

Benteke has been short of confidence in recent weeks but, since his heart-to-heart with Klopp, he's netted two goals in as many matches. His finish was based purely on instinct and he calmly slotted his effort past Mannone.

One-on-one situations are where the big Belgium international needs to improve. Against Leicester City, he missed an open goal and at Sunderland Benteke had a chance to seal the game for his side but took one too many touches and fired straight at Mannone. When Benteke has the time, he tends to overthink, something he did not do when at Aston Villa.

Nonetheless, the 25-year-old will be pleased at getting another goal under his belt. His movement was better in the second period and he looked to get around the back of the Sunderland rearguard, which led to his goal.

There's plenty of room for improvement from Benteke but he's already been rewarded twice for the type of football Klopp wants him to play.

Liverpool have passed another stiff test. They ended a rocky 2015 in a stubborn manner by keeping two clean sheets and they've firmly built a solid foundation heading into 2016.

Prior to the match in Wearside, Klopp insisted his side had plenty of character. Liverpool's last two results have showed that the German may be correct.

Sunderland v Liverpool - Premier League

Liverpool fans: Who would you like to see your side sign in January? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below

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Christian Benteke
Steven Gerrard
Premier League

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