Daniel Sturridge limped off injured as Liverpool's Premier League title hopes were dented by a 2-2 draw at lowly Sunderland.

The Reds twice led at the Stadium of Light but they spurned the chance to crank up the pressure on leaders Chelsea.

Sturridge nodded them in front but Jermain Defoe's penalty soon restored parity.

Liverpool looked to have won it when Sadio Mane converted with 18 minutes to go in his final appearance before heading for the Africa Cup of Nations.

However, the Senegal international swiftly went from hero to zero as his blatant handball allowed Defoe to earn the hosts a point.

Liverpool's misery was compounded by the sight of Sturridge going off with what appeared to be an ankle injury.

Despite Liverpool facing a third game in the space of six days, Jurgen Klopp made just one enforced change with Sturridge replacing the injured Jordan Henderson. Adam Lallana dropped back into the midfield.

David Moyes was surprisingly bold with his selection with former Reds striker Fabio Borini and Adnan Januzaj supporting Defoe.

It made for an entertaining and open first half as both teams looked dangerous in attack but vulnerable defensively.

Defoe's low drive tested Simon Mignolet before at the other end Vito Mannone was alert to deny Sturridge and then Gini Wijnaldum.

Mignolet made a sprawling save from Jack Rodwell as Sunderland continued to cause Liverpool's backline problems.

Sturridge had been the Reds' shining light and he broke the deadlock on 20 minutes.

When Dejan Lovren scuffed Milner's corner goalwards, Sturridge reacted brilliantly to nod beyond Mannone.

Liverpool's joy was shortlived as within five minutes the Black Cats were level.

Ragnar Klavan tripped Didier Ndong and Defoe slammed the penalty into the bottom corner.

Only the heroics of Mignolet prevented the hosts from quickly taking the lead.

Defoe burst through a gaping hole between the centre-backs and only had the keeper to beat. However, Mignolet saved at his feet and then Klavan got an important touch to prevent Borini from netting the rebound.

Klopp brought on Alberto Moreno for Milner after the break but Liverpool still struggled to impose themselves on the contest.

There had their moments with Mane inches away from converting Nathaniel Clyne's cross but there was no control.

It took a couple of fine defensive blocks from Lovren and Klavan when Borini and then Defoe looked set to pounce.

Sunderland had pleas for a penalty waved away when Adnan Zanuzaj flicked the ball against Emre Can's arm.

Liverpool countered at pace but Firmino's 25-yarder was held by Mannone before Can fired tamely at the keeper.

With 18 minutes to go the Reds went back in front. Sturridge couldn't beat Mannone after a classy one-two with Lallana but from the ensuing corner the goal arrived.

Ndong inadvertently flicked it on at the near post and Mane slotted in from close range.

Divock Origi came on for Wijnaldum with Lucas following after Sturridge limped off.

Liverpool appeared to be cruising but on 84 minutes they shot themselves in the foot.

Mane inexplicably handled Larsson's free-kick and Defoe bagged his second of the afternoon from the spot.

Source: Liverpool Echo

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