Adam Johnson

Sunderland 0-1 Liverpool

Lazar Markovic scored an early winner for Liverpool as they saw off ten-man Sunderland.

The former Benfica man poked the ball past Costel Pantilimon in the ninth minute that capped off an excellent performance for the Serbian.

Liverpool dominated the first half but struggled to kill the game off after Liam Bridcutt was sent off following a second booking after half time.

Neither side created too many chances but Markovic and Adam Johnson both hit the woodwork with shots from distance.

Liverpool wanted an early penalty when Markovic went down as he raced through but Craig Pawson ruled that Wes Brown didn’t make contact.

Markovic was rewarded five minutes later as he bundled the ball through Pantilimon after battling past Patrick van Aanholt in the box.

Markovic almost added a stunning second with an audacious and improvised effort that crashed against the bar.

Bridcutt was then booked for clipping Steven Gerrard’s heels in the middle of the pitch.

Jordan Henderson hit the post after a smart chest and volley but was penalised for handball.

Fabio Borini almost added a second after racing in behind Brown, skipped past Pantilimon but could only find the side netting.

Bridcutt was then sent off after receiving a second yellow for bringing down Emre Can on the right hand side.

Sunderland appeared galvanised by the red card and Johnson almost grabbed a stunning equaliser but his long-range effort swerved against the bar.

It was a brief renaissance, however, and Liverpool comfortably held on for the win.

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Boxing Day Preview and Predictions

@0riginalfooty takes a look at the Boxing Day fixtures for the 18th round of Premier League football. Last weekend we got six out of ten predictions right and two correct scores. Will we do better this week?

Chelsea vs West Ham (12:45)
Jose Mourinho’s men produced yet another solid display to win away at Stoke and ensure that they remained top of the Premier League tree this Christmas. West Ham continue to be the surprise package of the season and Andy Carroll is reminding us all that he is a large asset, when he stays fit. West Ham will be competitive, as the have been all season, but Chelsea should put early pressure on Manchester City.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 West Ham

Burnley vs Liverpool (15:00)
Results largely went against Burnley last weekend and returned them to the drop-zone but The Clarets are proving to be a competitive side who will fight until the end. Liverpool, meanwhile, will be encouraged by their performance against Arsenal but there are still question marks over their ability to defend. If Burnley can take the opportunities that Liverpool will almost undoubtedly present them, then they can get a result here.
Prediction: Burnley 1-1 Liverpool

Crystal Palace vs Southampton (15:00)
Palace are nervously looking over their shoulder and are yet to win in December. Southampton emphatically shook off fears that their season was coming to a grinding halt with an emphatic victory over Everton, who they will believe they can finish above. This could go either way but Palace have demonstrated a lack of killer instinct and The Saints can exploit that.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-2 Southampton

Everton vs Stoke (15:00)
The Toffees are having a dreadful season and are closer to the relegation zone, in terms of points, than they are to the top four. Another poor result against Southampton has added weight to the theory that teams know how to play against them and there is no plan B. Stoke have had a strange season and continually produce unpredictable results but they are capable of doing better. Roberto Martinez will be desperate to get a response from his players this week and they should have enough to see off The Potters.
Prediction: Everton 2-1 Stoke

Leicester vs Spurs (15:00)
The Foxes suffered another loss against West Ham last weekend and Nigel Pearson’s days look numbered. Spurs edged to yet another win and are now level with top-four rivals Arsenal. They will want to keep the pressure up on The Gunners before their match later in the day and should have enough to beat Leicester.
Prediction: Leicester 1-2 Spurs

Man United vs Newcastle (15:00)
United stuttered to a draw against 10-man Aston Villa but they can still take heart from the fact that they sit five points ahead of their realistic top-four contenders in the form of Arsenal and Spurs. Newcastle have started to slide since their good run of form and the late loss to Sunderland was a big blow for Alan Pardew’s team. United should return to winning ways.
Prediction: Man United 3-1 Newcastle

Sunderland vs Hull (15:00)
This is a massive fixture for both these teams. Adam Johnson produced another moment of magic in the latest Tyne-Wear derby to give The Black Cats some breathing space between themselves and the relegation zone. Hull continued their struggles with a home loss against Swansea but know that if they can beat their relegation rivals here that they could rise out of the drop zone. Steve Bruce would love to put one over on his former side but Gus Poyet has made Sunderland difficult to beat and they could record back-to-back victories here.
Prediction: Sunderland 1-0 Hull

Swansea vs Aston Villa (15:00)
Swansea will be very pleased with their season so far and enjoyed another good win last weekend. Villa will also be happy with their draw against Man United last weekend and put in a plucky display. They are quietly going about their business and have reached the halfway mark of the magic 40 points so are on track for survival. Having said that, Villa’s record against Swansea in the Premier League is dire and The Swans will fancy their chances at home.
Prediction: Swansea 2-1 Aston Villa

West Brom vs Man City (15:00)
West Brom put in a catastrophic performance last weekend and threw away a two-goal lead to allow fellow strugglers QPR to draw level with them on points. City have closed the gap significantly on Chelsea and are in good form, especially considering their shortage of strikers. There will only be one outcome in this game and it’s not good news for Baggies fans.
Prediction: West Brom 1-3 Man City

Arsenal vs QPR (17:30)
The Gunners didn’t show up last weekend and still almost beat Liverpool. The manner in which they threw away their lead will not have gone down well with Arsene Wenger and QPR may be in for a tough afternoon. The R’s are beating their relegation rivals and winning at home but continue to offer very little away from home and they will lose again here.
Prediction: Arsenal 3-0 QPR

Premier League Preview: Sunderland

There are only 3 weeks to wait ‘til the start of the Premier League. Over the next few weeks @0riginalfooty will preview the new season, take a look at each team and offer our predictions as to where each side will finish. Here we take a look at Sunderland.

On the face of things, a 14th place finish in the Premier League and two decent cup runs looks like a successful season for the Black Cats. However, in reality they spent the majority of the season in the relegation zone in a miserable campaign until a late surge kept them afloat. Gus Poyet will be hoping for a much more comfortable year this time round.

The Manager
Gus Poyet has plenty of Premier League experience, having played for both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, and is a highly rated up-and-coming manager. He enjoyed a very successful spell at the helm of Brighton and Hove Albion, although it ended sourly, and saved Sunderland from relegation as well as reaching the final of the League Cup.

Poyet is no stranger to the Premier League

Poyet is no stranger to the Premier League

Biggest Signing
Sunderland have made some decent additions to their squad so far, without spending too much money. Patrick van Aanholt has moved from Chelsea, having previously been out on loan, and should slot in at left-back. The Black Cats have also made three signings on three transfers: Costel Pantilimon, Billy Jones and Jordi Gomez. Of these, the biggest, both in terms of stature and reputation, is former Manchester City goalkeeper Pantilimon. The giant Romanian had a spell as Pellegrini’s number one keeper when Joe Hart suffered a dip in form and he performed admirably during his time between the sticks. He should prove to be a good addition for Gus Poyet.

Pantilimon will be a large presence in the Sunderland goal

Pantilimon will be a large presence in the Sunderland goal

Who is tipped to join them?
Poyet has expressed his concern at the lack of activity this window and the Black Cats haven’t been tipped to sign too many new faces. The main man believed to be on their radar is Fabio Borini from Liverpool, who was on loan to them last season, and they have agreed a fee of around £14 million to acquire his services. There has been a long wait to complete the transfer, however, and it is reported that Borini may prefer to stay on Merseyside.

It remains to be seen if Borini will move to Sunderland permanently

It remains to be seen if Borini will move to Sunderland permanently

Who should they sign?
The Black Cats look a little short in defence and will be keen to add some new recruits to bolster their squad. Poyet will be desperate for a new right-back in particular, especially having reportedly missed out on Carl Jenkinson, and Luis Pedro Cavanda is a potential option. Sunderland will also want competition at centre-back that Sebastian Bassong could provide.

Bassong would jump at the chance to return to top flight football

Bassong would jump at the chance to return to top flight football

Key Player
Adam Johnson. At points last season, there were calls for Adam Johnson to return to the England setup after several impressive displays, however, they did not come often enough. On his day, he is a tough proposition for any opposing fullback and if he can find his best form more consistently then Sunderland will have no trouble avoiding relegation.

Johnson would be a top player if he could consistently find form

Johnson would be a top player if he could consistently find form

Prediction
Sunderland appear to be building sensibly under Gus Poyet, who I believe is a good manager, and I think that we will see steady progress for the Black Cats over the next few seasons. I’m not expecting miracles by any stretch and think that they will actually finish a couple of places lower than last season but they should steer clear from relegation and have a more comfortable campaign. Expect Sunderland to finish 16th.