Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez refused to blame Sunderland's freak goal for his side's defeat on Wearside.
Striker Darren Bent's shot went in off a beach ball punched on to the pitch by a Reds fan as Liverpool lost 1-0.
Benitez said: "We had bad luck with the goal, but the team were not doing well so that is something we have to fix.
"The other things you cannot control. I couldn't see what had happened. We were asking and they told us but you cannot change things."
According to Law 3, the beach ball should have been considered an "outside agent", so referee Mike Jones should have awarded a drop ball.
"I thought it was a deflection off a player," said Sunderland manager Steve Bruce. "I have to say when I have just seen it there, if anybody knew that rule - that it is supposed to be a dropped ball - then you are a saddo.
"They have got it on telly with the guy who threw it on and it's got Liverpool crests all over it. What a shame."
The incident brought back memories of Sheffield United's opening goal in a 2-1 victory over Manchester City in an FA Cup tie during January 2008.
Luton Shelton netted after Michael Ball was seemingly wrong-footed by the ball bobbling off a balloon in the box.
Other freak goals include Stan Collymore's for Liverpool against Blackburn in 1996.
The striker's tame left-footed effort was heading straight into the arms of Tim Flowers before hitting a divot on the six-yard line - made by Flowers - and skipping over the goalkeeper's shoulder and into the net.
Steve McManaman scored in similar circumstances for Liverpool against Tottenham in the same year.
Liverpool's loss at the Stadium of Light was their fourth of the season and leaves them eighth in the Premier League table.
Bruce doubts Bent's 'balloon goal'
Benitez added: "We needed to play the rest of the game and needed to score and we couldn't.
"I'm really disappointed because it was very difficult before the game and then we concede an early goal which made it even more difficult.
"After that we couldn't react properly. We had some chances, especially David Ngog in the end, but we made some mistakes and let them play good counter-attacking football."
Liverpool are seven points behind leaders Manchester United, who they play next Sunday and Benitez tried to stay calm about his side's title chances after their latest setback.
"In a normal season, the teams at the top of the table will be winning every single game and that is a big difference," he added.
"In this case, Chelsea have lost two games and I see a lot of teams at the top of the table losing games.
"It's bad, but crucial? It depends on the next games."
Benitez was not happy with perceived time wasting by Sunderland, and he and Bruce exchanged heated words on the touchline during the match.
"It was handbags. It's all over, it's done," said Bruce.
Bent unapologetic over freak goal
"You do things in the heat of the moment which, when you look back at it, you think, 'Maybe I shouldn't have done that', but there you go."
Benitez explained: "I didn't have any argument with him. I was just asking for time because three or four times they were on the ground - in 10 minutes, three or four times, the game was stopped.
"I was talking with the fourth official and he was coming and he wanted to argue with me.
"I was surprised because I was talking with the fourth official about the time."
Bruce felt his side were worthy of a victory which moved them above Liverpool into seventh.
"I thought we deserved the win," stated Bruce. "In the second half, we had three one-on-ones - Darren went round the goalkeeper twice, he hit the post and Reina got back and made a great save.
"Steed (Malbranque) had a wonderful chance and I was just thinking, 'We need to take the second one'.
"But my goalkeeper only had one save to make - it was a good one - and overall, I thought we thoroughly deserved the victory."
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