Liverpool don’t often win on the first day of the news season. Since the 2002-2003 season, Liverpool have won only twice on their opener to the new season – Against Aston Villa (August 2007) and Sunderland (August 2008). It’s usually draws, like today. Luis Suarez was the cause for early excitement, with the penalty he got (and missed) and the goal he scored. And that was about it for Liverpool today in a 1-1 draw with Sunderland.
Sebastian Larsson ruined the planned celebrations at Anfield with a wonderful goal, aided by the poor marking of a young John Flanagan, busy observing the ball crossed above his head than actually marking his man. From then on, and actually well before the 57th minute equalizer by Sunderland, Liverpool lacked the inspiration and urgency to create real pressure and re take the lead.
It was a different story in the first half. Not a great display, with the new midfield – Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing all in the starting XI, as was Jose Enrique at left back. The option of having Andy Carroll as a crossing target seemed to tempt Liverpool players time after time instead of attempting a simple, smarter and probably more effective ground passing game. Carroll can reach almost any ball, but Wes Brown applied enough pressure each time to sway Carroll off the mark.
As long as Suarez was on the pitch, there was someone to keep some balls on the ground and make it tougher for the Sunderland defense rather than concentrate on just one man. Not enough players joining from the midfield, with Jordan Henderson incredibly weak and not involved in the match, Stewart Downing fading in the second half and Charlie Adam decent (including the assist to Luis Suarez) but not pushing forward enough, not as much as he did with Blackpool. Lucas Leiva? I’m tired of asking why is he still on this team, starting every match.
Sunderland hardly created chances, and were more busy playing dirty and wasting time the moment they had their goal. Asamoah Gyan looked lost, with only Stephane Sessegnon trying to get something more from the away game. He looked much better the moment Gyan left the game. Lee Cattermole’s sole reason on the pitch is to do some chopping and butchering, and Kieran Richardson somehow escaped a red card due to an super lenient Phil Dowd very early on.
Sunderland look like the sort of team who won’t be able to produce too many goals this season, and I won’t be surprised to find them in relegation battles in April and May. Maybe Connor Wickham (spending all 90 minutes on the bench) can be of aid, but it seems Steve Bruce’s team won’t be providing us with too many memorable displays.
As for Kenny Dalglish – He has depth, and talent. Not a great defense, but with enough time to gel and mesh, Liverpool will look better. It just needs too happen pretty soon. It’s a visit to the Emirates coming up next. Steven Gerrard isn’t coming back right now, and the Reds have got to start playing better. Too many flat displays like today, with the big price tag hanging over too many heads, might stir early and unwanted pressure for Dalglish.