Brazilian forward Philippe Coutinho was carried off during the first half after a collision with Didier Ndong
Liverpool substitute Divock Origi and James Milner broke stubborn Sunderland resistance late on to help Jurgen Klopp’s men overtake Manchester City at the top – but their victory was overshadowed by a potentially serious injury to Brazilian star Philippe Coutinho.
Coutinho was stretchered off in agony after 34 minutes when his ankle bent at an awkward angle following a challenge with Didier Ndong, though there was no blame attached to the Sunderland player.
It left Anfield in a subdued mood and after a series of missed chances, Klopp came to the touchline to rouse the fans after an hour.
The German’s intervention worked well as a renewed atmosphere helped Origi curl in the opening goal after 75 minutes with Milner converting an injury-time penalty after Sadio Mane had been flattened by Ndong.
And there was an even later debut for 17-year-old local lad Ben Woodburn of whom great things are expected.
Despite two wins in a row, Sunderland manager David Moyes unashamedly admitted before Saturday’s game that he would try to park a double-decker bus at Anfield.
Lamine Kone lived up to instructions with a fantastic block from Coutinho in the early stages and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was protected well enough in the opening 20 minutes to make only one save.
Ndong’s challenge on Coutinho as the Brazilian was about to shoot looked innocuous but Liverpool’s star man was clearly in pain as he hit the floor.
Medics took their time as they carefully placed him on the stretcher and Jurgen Klopp had instructed Divock Origi to replace him even before Coutinho was carried off to sympathetic applause from The Kop, covering his face to hide his discomfort with what appeared to be an ankle injury caused by the ball being forced onto his foot.
Dejan Lovren and Emre Can then went wide with a headers and Mane had a shot comfortably into Pickford’s midriff approaching half-time.
But as Liverpool trudged in at the interval, never were Klopp’s fabled powers of motivation more needed