Thomas gives Sunderland Roker Choker

by Ken Gaunt of "Press Association"

Substitute Michael Thomas threw anxious Liverpool a Coca-Cola Cup second-round lifeline at Anfield tonight.

The holders found it hard to enforce their authority against a spirited Sunderland side.

But manager Roy Evans took a gamble after 63 minutes by hauling off £8.5 million record buy Stan Collymore and replacing him with Thomas.

Nine minutes later the Kop roared their approval as the former Arsenal star scored a crucial second goal to set Liverpool up nicely for the second leg of the tie.

Sunderland must feel this result is an injustice as for long spells they were allowed to dictate the pace of the game.

Liverpool, so majestic against champions Blackburn at the weekend, looked so moderate against modest opposition.

The encouraging factor from the club's point of view will surely be the fine performance of Jason McAteer, making his first start after a 5 million move from Bolton.

He worked tirelessly in midfield and his enthusiasm was rewarded when he had a hand in the second goal.

Liverpool began positively and got off to the best possible start with a magnificent strike after just eight minutes.

Mark Wright's surging run took him into the heart of the Sunderland defence but as he prepared to shoot, colleague Steve McManaman took the ball off his toes.

The central defender's anger soon turned to joy, however, as McManaman whipped in a marvellous 20-yard shot that left goalkeeper Alec Chamberlain stranded.

McManaman nearly added a second after being released by Robbie Fowler, but his shot was deflected to safety by Andy Melville.

McAteer was then unlucky to see his effort come back off the base of the post after bending the ball round the Sunderland wall.

Liverpool continued to surge forward and Chamberlain had another scare when Fowler was picked out by McManaman, only for his shot to go the wrong side of the post.

Sunderland, however, regrouped and the industrious Phil Gray saw a back header go narrowly over the bar after a fine cross from Dariusz Kubicki.

Peter Reid's men were a different side in the second half and had a great chance of drawing level five minutes into the second spell when keeper David James tripped Paul Bracewell.

James redeemed himself by blocking Michael Gray's penalty and when the ball rebounded to the Sunderland player he headed it over the top.

That miss proved crucial as Thomas grabbed Liverpool's second with a marvellous chip from the edge of the area after he was set up by McAteer.

Sunderland's luck was right out and substitute Martin Smith could only look on in disbelief as his chip hit the bar with James out of his goal.

Sunderland manager Peter Reid tonight asked for guidelines about when goalkeepers should be sent off after giving away penalties.

Reid made his statement after his first division side went down 2-0 to Coca-Cola Cup holders Liverpool in the first leg of the second round tie.

Liverpool keeper David James gave away a penalty after appearing to trip Paul Bracewell in the penalty area. Referee Peter Jones decided the spot kick was the only course of action he would take and did not even book James.

Reid said: "I want to know the rule about goalkeepers when they should be sent off and when they should stay on after giving away a penalty."

"The referee told me they were defenders around the goalkeeper but I never saw them."

Liverpool manager Roy Evans took a different point of view. He said: "I don't think it was a penalty. James said he had a hand on the ball. If a goalkeeper attempts to save the ball it is not a problem in my book."

Goals from Steve McManaman and sub Michael Thomas took Liverpool to victory.

But Reid said: "If we keep playing like that we will win more games than we will lose."

Evans added: "I am happy with the scoreline as we didn't play very well. It puts us in a reasonable position for the second leg."

Copyright - The Press Association

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