Points dropped at Anfield in opening day clash

Charlie Adam

Liverpool started their 2011-2012 English Premier League campaign with a 1-1 home draw against Sunderland. Luis Suarez put the Reds ahead with a header off a Charlie Adam free-kick in the 12th minute having missed a penalty six minutes earlier but Liverpool were left to rue their missed chances when Sebastian Larsson equalised in the 57th with an acrobatic effort which is already a contender for goal of the season.

Kenny Dalglish named a strong starting line-up with the summer signings Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Jose Enrique making their way into the first eleven. Young Flanagan was given the right-back duty in the absence of the injured Glen Johnson while Jamie Carragher was paired with Daniel Agger in central defence. Jose Enrique slotted into the left back position even though he had hardly trained with the team following his transfer from Newcastle United. The three new midfield signings started the match with Downing on the left, Henderson on the right and Charlie Adam teaming up with Lucas Leiva in central midfield. Andy Carroll renewed his partnership with Luis Suarez up front as Dirk Kuyt was left on the bench along with Raul Meireles.

Liverpool started the match at a high tempo with the players linking up well and playing the traditional pass-and-move game. Kieran Richardson was lucky to stay on the pitch when he brought down Luis Suarez inside the penalty box in the 6th minute with the Uruguayan striker trying to round the goalkeeper to score; referee Phil Dowd reckoned that Suarez was moving away from goal and only awarded Liverpool a penalty while showing a yellow card to the Sunderland defender. Suarez stepped up to take the penalty himself but blasted his shot way over the crossbar failing to give Liverpool an early lead. However, he made up in style six minutes later with Liverpool's first goal of the new Premier League campaign as he headed in a Charlie Adam free-kick.

Liverpool almost doubled their lead in the 34th minute as Stewart Downing came up with a mesmerising run down the right but only managed to rattle the crossbar with a well-taken shot from the edge of the box. The Reds made repeated forays into the Sunderland defence but failed to capitalise on their dominance as the half ended with Liverpool leading by the solitary Luis Suarez goal.

The second half was totally different from the first as Liverpool looked out of sorts trying to play route one football, thumping the ball goalwards with the hope that Carroll would do some magic up front. Sunderland gradually started controlling the game and Asamoah Gyan almost equalised in the 52nd minute but his header went straight into the clutches of Pepe Reina. Sunderland's moment of glory finally came up in the 57th minute when Steve Bruce's Bosman signing Sebastian Larsson equalised for the visitors. With Flanagan out of position momentarily, Elmohamdy's cross from the right found an unmarked Larsson at the back post and the ex-Birmingham City player pulled off a stunning volley to beat Pepe Reina.

Kenny Dalglish turned to old hands in an effort to try and regain control of the match with Dirk Kuyt coming on for Henderson in the 61st  minute. The Dutchman almost had an immediate effect but failed to latch on to the ball in front of the Sunderland goal. Raul Meireles was the next player to be thrown into the fray as Luis Suarez was taken off in the 75th minute, probably as a result of his exertions in the recently concluded Copa America.

As Liverpool tried desperately to grab a winner in the dying stages of the match, Sunderland managed to hold on for a draw and even threatened once or twice on the counter-attack as the Liverpool players tried to seize the initiative higher up the pitch. Charlie Adam tried to create a moment of magic in the 86th minute but failed to find a teammate to support him inside the box. The match ended with the teams level at 1-1 but Sunderland certainly the happier of the two especially after their dismal first half performance.

Liverpool will feel that they have dropped two points at home but need to put the second half performance behind them as they tale on Arsenal next week at the Emirates. However, there were certainly some positives from this game with the performances of Charlie Adam and Jose Enrique topping that list. Stewart Downing showed flashes of quality and Jordan Henderson looked comfortable in midfield while Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez still look a great partnership under development up front. The right-back position is probably the only position that needs a bit of looking into because Flanagan looked out of sorts on quite a few occasions and Dalglish might consider playing Martin Kelly there till Glen Johnson makes a return from his injury. However, Flanagan is still very young and should use this experience to further develop his game as he seems to have the potential to be a top right-back in the future.

Graphics courtesy: kong niffe via CC


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