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Fan beaches Liverpool's title hopes

Instant notoriety is guaranteed for a young spectator who effectively condemned Liverpool to a 1-0 defeat against Sunderland in England at the Stadium of Light.

sports Updated: Oct 18, 2009 15:34 IST

Instant notoriety is guaranteed for a young spectator who effectively condemned Liverpool to a 1-0 defeat against Sunderland in England at the Stadium of Light.

The 'supporter', who was wearing a dark blue top - the colour of Liverpool's city rivals Everton - has been captured on YouTube throwing a beach ball into the Liverpool penalty area during a Sunderland attack.

He could not have imagined the consequences before a shot from Darren Bent struck the ball and diverted it past goalkeeper Pepe Reina for the decisive goal in Saturday's match.

It was an incident which provoked surprising responses from the two managers, with Liverpool's Rafael Benitez remarkably sanguine about a goal that brought about his team's third successive defeat.

Asked if the goal should have been disallowed, Benitez said: "It's a technical question. It could be a goal, but it's difficult to say. In this case, I think it should be a goal."

Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, was not so certain after speaking to a referee after the game about "outside interference".

He said: "I've been told the laws of the game state it should have been disallowed and the game restarted with a drop ball. But does anybody know that rule?"

Bent didn't care who was right. He was just happy to claim a goal which meant he'd scored in each of Sunderland's last five games.

It also moved him level with Liverpool's Fernando Torres as the Premier League's top scorer with eight goals.

Bent, who is staking a powerful claim for an England return, said: "It was a strange goal, but I will take it."

While it was a freakish winner, the outcome of the game was the right one with Sunderland confirming the promise they showed in drawing at champions Manchester United a fortnight earlier.

They outclassed a Liverpool team who were deprived of Torres and Steven Gerrard through injuries and could not fill the gap in class left by those two internationals.

This was their third successive defeat and their fourth in the league this season - and no team has won the championship after losing so many times in the past decade.

However, Benitez is refusing to accept that Liverpool's pursuit of the title is over.

He said: "This is a bad defeat, but in a normal season, teams at the top would be wining every single game.

"This is a bit different. Chelsea have lost twice and I've seen a lot of teams at the top losing games.

"If we win the next two or three games, we could be top of the table. It's a question of keeping our confidence and working hard. We have to analyse things and see if we are making mistakes," the Spaniard said.

Bruce said: "I thought we deserved it. We had three one-on-ones in the second-half and could have scored more.

"There was a great atmosphere and maybe the players have not been able to handle it in the past, but they did this time and it's pleasing.

"We had a bit of luck with the goal, but we took them on and beat them hands down," the former United captain added.

Sunderland moved above Liverpool with this victory and into seventh place. On this evidence, they could go even higher and it would be no surprise if they still head the Anfield club at the end of the season.

That is the measure of the progress they have made this season thanks to Bruce's shrewd transfer activity.