Fernando Torres opens the scoring in spectacular fashion
By Stuart Roach
Fernando Torres scored twice as Liverpool swept aside Sunderland to maintain hopes of a top-four finish.
Torres opened the scoring with a spectacular strike in only the third minute, cutting inside Michael Turner and curling a shot into the top corner.
Glen Johnson added a second with a shot that deflected off Turner then turned provider for Torres to hook home again.
Craig Gordon saved well from Daniel Agger and Maxi Rodriguez to maintain some respectability for Sunderland.
Liverpool's win went some way to erasing the memory of their painful defeat at Sunderland earlier in the season when Rafael Benitez's side were beaten by a Darren Bent shot that controversially deflected in off a beach ball.
Liverpool had laid down their intentions in the very first minute, Gordon reacting smartly to beat away Agger's volley after Dirk Kuyt had flicked on a Steven Gerrard free-kick.
Benitez left wanting more goals after win
It was an early sign of things to come and Liverpool opened their account in magnificent style as Torres stamped an instant hallmark of quality on the game.
Goalkeeper Pepe Reina found the striker out wide on the left and Torres cut inside Turner before bending a delightful shot beyond the reach of Gordon and into the top right corner of the Sunderland net.
Torres' wonder strike was followed by a procession of Reds chances, as Torres, Gerrard and Agger (twice) all shot wide and Javier Mascherano's drive was spectacularly repelled by Kieran Richardson's diving header.
As well as some wasteful finishing from the home side, Sunderland fans were also grateful for some heroics from keeper Gordon, who brilliantly pushed away Rodriguez's header from a Gerrard corner.
But the keeper was beaten again on 32 minutes when Johnson's fine first touch earned him a yard of space inside Steed Malbranque and set up a left-foot shot that deflected wickedly off the knee of Turner and beyond Gordon's reach.
It could have been so much worse for Sunderland in a first half totally dominated by a Liverpool team oozing with the confidence that had been so starkly absent for much of this season.
The performance was perfectly precised by a glorious Liverpool move five minutes before the break that saw them sweep across the pitch and set up Torres for a shot that smacked against a post, the Spaniard scuffing the rebound wide.
Amid the Reds onslaught, Sunderland managed only a single attempt on goal in the first half, an innocent Jordan Henderson shot flying harmlessly wide, and it was five minutes into the first half before the visitors forced their first corner.
Gerrard was at the fulcrum of the home side's overwhelming dominance, with Torres the chief outlet.
I'm almost back to my best - Torres
Only a fine last-gasp block from substitute Paulo Da Silva denied Torres his second following a move driven by Gerrard and involving another forward burst from the rampaging Johnson.
But Sunderland's partial resistance was ended on the hour when Johnson again claimed the assist for Torres to score his second.
Johnson looked certain to shoot as the ball sat up for him on the edge of the box, but he instead rolled a pass into the path of Torres, who calmly hooked past a prostrate Gordon and into an empty net.
The last time these sides met, Sunderland secured victory with a Darren Bent shot that deflected in off a beach ball, but not even that type of bizarre intervention could have saved the Black Cats here.
In fact, for the best part it was a case of damage limitation for Steve Bruce's side as the hosts totally dominated.
We could not get near Liverpool - Bruce
Only the departure of Torres, Gerrard and Kuyt spared Sunderland further pain as Liverpool eased off towards the end.
Former Anfield favourite Bolo Zenden nearly grabbed a late consolation for Sunderland after coming off the bench to provide Reina with his only test of the afternoon.
The Spaniard was equal to the effort though, reacting smartly to keep out Zenden's right-foot drive and preserve a three-goal margin of victory that, in all honesty, flattered Sunderland.
The win moved Liverpool up to fifth, three points behind Spurs, though Benitez's side have played a game than their London rivals.
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce: "Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and say you were beaten by a far better team.
"They got off to a wonderful start and when Torres and Gerrard are in the mood then it becomes very difficult."
[On Torres's opener]: "It's a wonder goal. We all know he is a class act when he plays like that. He is a fantastic centre-forward and it was his day today."
90:00+2:33 Centre by Nabil El Zhar, Michael Turner manages to make a clearance.
90:00+1:13 The ball is delivered by Alberto Aquilani, clearance made by Michael Turner. Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Alberto
Aquilani from the right by-line. Emiliano Insua sends in a cross, Phillip Bardsley manages to make a clearance.
90:00+0:30 Boudewijn Zenden takes a shot. Jose Reina makes a save.
90:00+0:06 Shot from 25 yards from Alberto Aquilani. Save by Craig Gordon.
89:11 Glen Johnson gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Darren Bent. Direct free kick taken by Lorik Cana.
84:14 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Lorik Cana by Daniel Agger. Kieran Richardson produces a strike on goal direct
from the free kick.
81:07 Ryan Babel takes a shot. Save by Craig Gordon.
79:56 Substitution Nabil El Zhar on for Steven Gerrard.
79:56 Kieran Richardson produces a left-footed shot from long range which goes wide right of the goal.
79:05 Free kick awarded for a foul by Javier Mascherano on Fraizer Campbell. Kieran Richardson crosses the ball from the free kick
left-footed from right wing, Jose Reina makes a save.
Correction - 77:07 Substitution (Sunderland) makes a substitution, with Boudewijn Zenden coming on for Jordan Henderson.
Correction - 77:07 Substitution David Ngog comes on in place of Fernando Torres.
77:07 Substitution Jordan Henderson leaves the field to be replaced by Boudewijn Zenden.
77:07 Substitution David Ngog is brought on as a substitute for Fernando Torres.
75:50 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Javier Mascherano by Kieran Richardson. Free kick taken by Javier Mascherano.
74:51 Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Jordan Henderson, save by Jose Reina.
72:57 Kenwyne Jones fouled by Steven Gerrard, the ref awards a free kick. Shot comes in from Darren Bent from the free kick.
71:45 Fernando Torres takes a shot from just inside the penalty box which clears the crossbar.
70:03 Free kick taken by Javier Mascherano.
70:03 Substitution Alberto Aquilani is brought on as a substitute for Dirk Kuyt.
70:03 Booking Darren Bent goes into the referee's book for unsporting behaviour.
69:57 Free kick awarded for a foul by Darren Bent on Daniel Agger.
69:15 The ball is swung over by Javier Mascherano, clearance by Michael Turner.
68:45 Corner taken right-footed by Ryan Babel.
67:48 Shot by Kieran Richardson from outside the box goes high over the target.
65:44 Phillip Bardsley fouled by Ryan Babel, the ref awards a free kick. Phillip Bardsley restarts play with the free kick.
64:56 Dirk Kuyt fouled by Lorik Cana, the ref awards a free kick. Indirect free kick taken by Jamie Carragher.
64:08 Effort on goal by Dirk Kuyt from just inside the box goes harmlessly over the target.
62:49 Rodriguez Maxi takes a shot. Blocked by Paulo Da Silva.
62:33 Ryan Babel takes a shot. Anton Ferdinand gets a block in.
61:27 Ryan Babel crosses the ball, blocked by Michael Turner.
59:07 Assist by Glen Johnson.
59:07 GOAL - Fernando Torres:Liverpool 3 - 0 Sunderland Fernando Torres gets on the score sheet with a goal from deep inside the penalty box to the bottom left corner of the goal.
Liverpool 3-0 Sunderland.
59:06 Ryan Babel delivers the ball,
58:37 Centre by Ryan Babel, clearance made by Michael Turner.
55:46 Unfair challenge on Kenwyne Jones by Jamie Carragher results in a free kick. Lorik Cana takes the free kick.
55:36 A cross is delivered by Emiliano Insua, clearance by Anton Ferdinand.
54:02 Jordan Henderson takes a shot. Jose Reina makes a save.
51:55 Fernando Torres takes a shot. Michael Turner gets a block in. Steven Gerrard fouled by Jordan Henderson, the ref awards a
free kick. Steven Gerrard fires a strike on goal direct from the free kick.
50:54 Substitution Kenwyne Jones is brought on as a substitute for Steed Malbranque.
49:44 Steed Malbranque fouled by Glen Johnson, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Kieran Richardson. Inswinging
corner taken from the right by-line by Kieran Richardson.
49:08 Effort on goal by Ryan Babel from just outside the penalty area goes harmlessly over the target.
46:46 Foul by Dirk Kuyt on Lorik Cana, free kick awarded. Craig Gordon takes the free kick.
46:35 The ball is crossed by Glen Johnson, Phillip Bardsley manages to make a clearance.
45:01 The game restarts for the second half.
45:01 Substitution (Sunderland) makes a substitution, with Paulo Da Silva coming on for Lee Cattermole.
45:00+1:09 The half-time whistle blows.
43:41 The offside flag is raised against Ryan Babel. Craig Gordon takes the indirect free kick.
42:45 Fernando Torres crosses the ball, Daniel Agger takes a shot. Michael Turner gets a block in.
41:17 The ball is crossed by Dirk Kuyt, clearance by Anton Ferdinand.
39:30 Effort from deep inside the area by Fernando Torres bounces off the post. Fernando Torres produces a volleyed right-footed
shot from deep inside the penalty box which goes wide of the left-hand post.
39:17 Rodriguez Maxi takes a shot. Michael Turner gets a block in.
37:01 Free kick awarded for a foul by Glen Johnson on Steed Malbranque. Lorik Cana takes the indirect free kick.
33:08 Michael Turner gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Emiliano Insua. Steven Gerrard delivers the ball from the
free kick right-footed from left wing.
31:44 GOAL - Glen Johnson:Liverpool 2 - 0 Sunderland A goal is scored by Glen Johnson from outside the penalty box to the top right corner of the goal. Liverpool 2-0 Sunderland.
31:12 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard from the left by-line to the near post, clearance by Darren Bent.
29:45 Foul by Steed Malbranque on Glen Johnson, free kick awarded. The ball is sent over by Steven Gerrard, Close range headed effort
by Daniel Agger goes wide of the left-hand upright.
28:37 Right-footed shot by Jordan Henderson missed to the left of the goal.
28:09 Free kick awarded for a foul by Dirk Kuyt on Lorik Cana. Anton Ferdinand takes the free kick.
24:14 Steven Gerrard takes the outswinging corner, Rodriguez Maxi takes a shot. Save by Craig Gordon. Steven Gerrard takes a outswinging
corner from the right by-line to the near post, clearance by Lee Cattermole.
21:01 Rodriguez Maxi gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Steed Malbranque. Kieran Richardson restarts play with the
free kick. A cross is delivered by Steed Malbranque, clearance by Jamie Carragher.
19:01 The ball is swung over by Glen Johnson, clearance made by Lorik Cana. Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard,
clearance made by Michael Turner.
17:55 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard from the left by-line, Daniel Agger produces a right-footed shot from
deep inside the penalty area which goes wide of the right-hand post.
17:28 Steven Gerrard has an effort at goal. Blocked by Michael Turner.
16:50 Foul by Steed Malbranque on Rodriguez Maxi, free kick awarded. Jamie Carragher takes the indirect free kick.
15:53 Steven Gerrard crosses the ball, Fernando Torres produces a right-footed shot from deep inside the penalty box which goes
wide of the right-hand upright.
13:00 Javier Mascherano produces a right-footed shot from outside the penalty box and misses left.
12:28 The ball is crossed by Emiliano Insua, Michael Turner manages to make a clearance. Steven Gerrard decides to take the corner
10:08 Kieran Richardson challenges Rodriguez Maxi unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Jamie Carragher.
Correction - 8:35 Corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard from the right by-line, clearance made by Phillip Bardsley. Shot by Javier Mascherano.
Anton Ferdinand manages to make a clearance. Ryan Babel takes a shot. Save by Craig Gordon.
8:35 Corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard from the right by-line, Phillip Bardsley makes a clearance. Javier Mascherano
has a volleyed shot. Clearance by Phillip Bardsley. Ryan Babel takes a shot. Save made by Craig Gordon.
7:45 Glen Johnson sends in a cross, clearance made by Anton Ferdinand.
Correction - 2:57 Assist on the goal came from Jose Reina.
Correction - 2:57 GOAL - Fernando Torres:Liverpool 1 - 0 Sunderland Fernando Torres fires in a goal from the edge of the area to the top right corner of the goal. Liverpool 1-0 Sunderland.
2:57 The assist for the goal came from Jose Reina.
2:57 GOAL - Fernando Torres:Liverpool 1 - 0 Sunderland Fernando Torres scores a goal from just outside the box to the top right corner of the goal. Liverpool 1-0 Sunderland.
0:30 Rodriguez Maxi fouled by Steed Malbranque, the ref awards a free kick. Steven Gerrard sends in a cross, Shot from 18 yards
from Daniel Agger. Save by Craig Gordon.
0:00 The ref blows the whistle to start the match.
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