Signs of promise
As part of our new Premier League Snap-shots feature Peter O'Rourke looks at Liverpool's draw at Sunderland
Last Updated: 15/09/12 8:48pm
Liverpool are still looking for their first Premier League win of the season, but there were some signs of promise in their performance at Sunderland.
The visitors dominated the game and with a bit more luck and better finishing would have come away with all three points as Brendan Rodgers looks to implement his style of play on this Liverpool side.
Rodgers stuck to his preferred 4-3-3 tactics and the side almost picked itself due to Liverpool's lack of attacking resources.
Raheem Sterling again started for the Reds and the teenager was arguably Liverpool's most dangerous player on the pitch when he got in the final third.
Luis Suarez started wide on the left of the front three and he became more effective when he was moved to the central spot after Fabio Borini was replaced by Stewart Downing.
Steven Gerrard and Joe Allen look like they are building up a good understanding in midfield and they dictated the game in the engine room.
Glen Johnson was again preferred at left-back ahead of Jose Enrique with Martin Kelly starting at right-back.
Sunderland were missing Adam Johnson as he failed to recover from injury to face Liverpool and the England man was sorely missed in the Sunderland attack.
Danny Rose replaced Johnson in the side from the last time out with the Spurs loanee being used in a left-back role with James McClean and Sebastian Larsson providing the width on the flanks.
Lee Cattermole and Jack Colback worked hard in the centre of midfield with Stephane Sessegnon playing behind Fletcher in attack.
There was no change in tactics from Rodgers, but there looked to be a better balance to the side when Downing was introduced for Borini, allowing Suarez to play down the centre with Sterling and Downing down the flanks.
The fluidity of the system with Allen and Gerrard playing quite deep allowed the likes of Glen Johnson to get forward from full-back and he was unlucky not to score in the second half.
Martin O'Neill is a traditional 4-4-2 man and there was no change to his tactics with two wide men trying to provide the service for new signing Steven Fletcher, but McClean and Larsson were unable to have an impact on the game.
Titus Bramble came on for the injured Carlos Cuellar and he slotted fine into central defence although he was partly at fault for Liverpool's equaliser. The big defender deflected Suarez's shot straight back to the Uruguayan who slammed the ball home at the second attempt.
Fraizer Campbell and Louis Saha were introduced late on as Sunderland looked to up the tempo as they struggled to get out of their half for long periods of the second half.
Liverpool only made one change with Downing coming on for the ineffective Borini and although the England winger did not create many chances his introduction allowed Suarez to switch to a more central role and the striker started to get the ball more in better positions for the visitors.
Martin Atkinson had a relatively quiet day at the office, but he may have got a penalty call wrong in the first half. Suarez went down in the box under a challenge from John O'Shea with Atkinson booking the Uruguayan for diving. TV replays showed there was contact between O'Shea and Suarez with possibly the striker's reputation going against him on this occasion.
Apart from the Suarez booking Atkinson cautioned Martin Skrtel and Larsson for routine fouls.
Liverpool need to take their chances when they are in the ascendancy otherwise they will continue to throw away points.
After dominating the opening half hour at the Stadium of Light they found themselves behind thanks to Sunderland's first noteworthy attack of the game with the side being punished for some carelessness in defence.
Next up is the small matter of Manchester United at Anfield and Liverpool will need to be more clinical in front of goal if they are to take anything from the clash with their bitter rivals.
Sunderland have drawn their opening three games of the season and although Fletcher looks like he could solve their goalscoring problems they will need to provide better service to the Scot.
Fletcher scored with his only chance of the match to make it three goals in two games, but they lacked some creativity against Liverpool with Stephane Sessegnon strangely subdued.
Next up for Sunderland is a trip to Premier League new boys West Ham and O'Neill will be hoping Fletcher can maintain his rich vein of form as they go in search of their first three points of the campaign.