English Premiership

Liverpool held by Sunderland

2012-09-15 21:05
Brendan Rodgers (File)
Sunderland - Brendan Rodgers was left searching for his first win as Liverpool manager after a 1-1 draw away to Sunderland on Saturday capped an emotional week for the club.

On an afternoon when the Anfield club's supporters spent much of the game singing songs in support of the 96 fans that lost their lives in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, Liverpool's poor start to the campaign almost got worse.

After £12m man Steven Fletcher had put Sunderland ahead in the 29th minute with his third goal in two Premier League appearances for the club, the Reds looked incapable of converting one of their many chances.

But with 19 minutes remaining, Liverpool's luck finally changed when striker Luis Suarez was on hand to power the loose ball over the line after his initial shot had been blocked.

It was a result which also left Sunderland searching for their first league win of the season, with Liverpool struggling at the wrong end of the table under the new boss.

After an independent panel report published earlier this week exonerated Liverpool fans of any responsibility for the Hillsborough tragedy, Sunderland flew flags at half mast in support of all those affected.

Among the banners on display in the away end was a huge "Justice for the 96" as both sets of players warmed up in what was always going to be an emotional day for the supporters of the Anfield club.

Liverpool dominated the first 25 minutes but, as has become the norm this season, they were unable to turn their greater share of the ball into a goal.

With Raheem Sterling, Suarez and Fabio Borini all looking lively, a few good early chances were created.

The best came when Sunderland's Carlos Cuellar made a mess of a back-header but, fortunately for the Black Cats, alert Belgium goalkeeper Simon Mignolet charged out to deny Borini who had latched on to the loose ball. Jonjo Shelvey fluffed the follow up.

By the time Fletcher had put Sunderland ahead just before the half hour, Liverpool had recorded seven shots on goal to Sunderland's none.

But that soon changed when Craig Gardner's powerful run down the right flank ended with his low, driven cross being turned in by Fletcher.

After that Sunderland looked the more comfortable side up until half-time.

Liverpool still had the ability to move forward and cause problems, even if they lacked the cutting edge in the final third.

Glen Johnson emerged as Liverpool's most dangerous player. He had already saw a teasing centre go unconverted in the second half before he curled a 20 yard shot off the bar.

It wasn't Steven Gerrard's day either. He shaved the post from just inside the area when it looked easier to score and Sunderland kept plugging away and defended strongly until the 71st minute.

Suarez, who had infuriated the home supporters earlier by going down cheaply in the penalty area, popped up in the area to finish off Sterling's cross at the second time of asking from inside six yards to finally level things.

Liverpool could even have won it. Shelvey was denied excellently by Mignolet and in the end both teams had to make do with a point.

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