Sunderland 1-1 Liverpool
LUIS SUAREZ grabbed a second-half equaliser from close-range to secure Liverpool a share of the spoils and deny Martin O'Neill's side a hard-fought first three points of the campaign.
In the end both sides were left waiting for their maiden three-point hauls of the season with Sunderland breaking down in the final third too often and Liverpool found wanting in front of goal.
Sunderland took the lead inside half an hour when Steven Fletcher finished from close-range before Suarez's second-half equaliser at the second attempt.
Martin O'Neill was without Adam Johnson who failed a late fitness test so Sebastian Larsson returned to the right-hand side of midfield whilst Jack Colback returned to the centre of the park with Danny Rose making his debut at left-back.
Liverpool were without the services of Lucas Leiva so Jonjo Shelvey made a rare start in the middle of the park alongside skipper Steven Gerrard and Joe Allen.
The match started slowly with both sides sounding each other out, with the first opportunity of the match not arriving until the 18th minute. Carlos Cuellar fluffed a header back to Simon Mignolet and Fabio Borini nipped into the poke goalward, Mignolet spreading himself well to block.
Just a minute later the Black Cats had their first chance when Larsson swung a right-footed free-kick narrowly wide of Pepe Reina's right-hand post from far out on the left-hand side.
Six minutes later Borini had another chance when a pass was fired into Suarez who touched it back to the Italian to side-foot toward the bottom right-hand corner where Mignolet pushed the effort away.
In the 29th minute the opener arrived when Craig Gardner scampered down the right flank before firing a low cross into the centre where Fletcher was on hand to notch his third goal for the club in just two games.
With seven first-half minutes left, Larsson fed in Colback who waited too long to shift the ball onto his right foot and subsequently saw his route to goal blocked well by Glen Johnson.
Seconds before half-time Shelvey nearly forced a leveller when he pinged in a cross from the right-hand side which Cuellar did well to prevent from reaching Borini.
Cuellar's block at the end of the first-half was his last action of the game as he was replaced at half-time by Titus Bramble.
Shelvey was the first to test Mignolet in the second-period, cracking in a low right-footed effort from 25 yards which the Belgian scooped up with ease.
Johnson then darted in from the left-hand side before sending a curling effort off the face of the crossbar from just inside the Black Cat's penalty area.
After a bright start from Brendan Rodgers' side, Sunderland enjoyed a spell of their own, coming agonizingly close when McClean's attempted cross was blocked well by Daniel Agger with Fletcher lurking in the centre.
Ten minutes before the equaliser Sunderland were given fair warning when Raheem Sterling progressed down the right before sending in a cross which found it's way to Gerrard at the second attempt to steer wide.
In the 71st minute the equaliser came when Sterling beat the otherwise impeccable Rose and crossed for Suarez who saw his initial shot saved by Mignolet. The Uruguayan buried from close-range at the second attempt.
Shelvey had another chance with 11 minutes left to play, driving toward the edge of the penalty area before cracking a left-footed effort at goal to be pushed away by Mignolet before Suarez headed over.
Sunderland fought hard for a point but rarely troubled Reina before getting into some decent positions. The procrastination on the ball from Colback in particular was costly in terms of moving the ball forward but overall, not a bad showing.
Liverpool kept the ball very well but were not pressed from the front until the late in the game when Larsson instructed his fellow attackers to pressurise the Red's back four in order to stop them playing out. Their biggest problem lay in the bluntness of their front three with Borini looking well short of value at £10m whilst Suarez was as frustrating as he was dangerous.
Sunderland: Mignolet 7; Gardner 7, O'Shea 7, Cuellar 6 (Bramble 6), Rose 8 (Campbell 6); Larsson 6, Cattermole (c) 7, Colback 7, McClean 7; Sessegnon 5; Fletcher 6 (Saha 5).
Subs not used: Westwood (gk), Kilgallon, Ji & Meyler.
Liverpool: Reina; Kelly, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson; Shelvey, Allen, Gerrard; Sterling, Borini (Downing) & Suarez.
Subs not used: Jones (gk), Carragher, Sahin, Henderson, Assaidi & Enrique.
Attendance: 41 997
Referee: Mr M Atkinson
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