SUNDERLAND, England (AP) - Jermain Defoe denied Liverpool a fifth successive English Premier League win by scoring twice to give struggling Sunderland a 2-2 draw on Monday.
Sadio Mane, playing his final game before heading to the African Cup of Nations with Senegal, looked to have won the game for Liverpool in the 72nd minute after Defoe had cancelled out Daniel Sturridge’s opener by converting a penalty.
However, Mane’s handball with five minutes presented a second penalty that Defoe also scored to secure a valuable point in Sunderland’s bid for survival.
Liverpool is in second place, five points behind Chelsea, which can pull eight points clear of Juergen Klopp’s side with a victory at Tottenham on Wednesday.
The manner of Liverpool’s 19th-minute opener jarred with the quality of the early attacking play in northeast England. Defender Dejan Lovren scuffed his attempted volley from James Milner’s corner harmlessly into the ground but saw the ball bounce up off the turf for Sturridge to head past helpless goalkeeper Vito Mannone from close range.
But Sunderland was level six minutes later. Liverpool defender Ragnar Klavan clumsily upended midfielder Didier Ndong as he burst into the penalty area and Defoe slammed the resulting penalty into the bottom corner.
Defoe should really have scored another almost immediately after he ran on to Adnan Januzaj’s through-ball but could not go round goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. Fabio Borini fired wide from the rebound.
Sturridge tested Mannone once again from distance as the break approached, but the Italian goalkeeeper stood firm to keep Sunderland level.
The game was becoming increasingly stretched as the hosts sensed an opportunity, although that allowed Liverpool to hit them on the break.
Mannone needed to be at his best to keep out Sturridge’s shot after he had run on to Adam Lallana’s back-heel.
But Liverpool regained the lead from the resulting corner when Papy Djilobodji could only help on Alberto Moreno’s corner to Mane, who tapped into the empty net.
Mane’s joy was short-lived when he conceded the game’s second penalty by blocking Sebastian Larsson’s free kick with his arm. Defoe’s equalizer prevented Sunderland slumping to a third successive loss. Sunderland is one point from safety, in 18th place.
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