Wasteful Liverpool held by Sunderland in opener

Liverpool: Liverpool made a frustrating start to the new Premier League season as Sebastian Larsson earned Sunderland a 1-1 draw at Anfield on Saturday.

All appeared to be going to plan for Kenny Dalglish`s expensively-assembled side when Luis Suarez, who had earlier missed a penalty, gave the hosts a 12th minute lead.

But Liverpool`s defence has been less than convincing in pre-season and Larsson took full advantage of some poor marking to volley home a 57th minute equaliser.

It was a disappointing result for Liverpool, who have spent more than £100 million this year in an attempt to re-establish themselves in the top four after last season`s sixth-placed finish.

New signings Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam and Jose Enrique all featured against Sunderland.

But it is clearly going to take the players time to gel after a disappointing second half performance by the hosts.

Liverpool were seeking their first opening day win since 2008 - when they beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Yet it is a sign of all the changes that have swept Anfield in the last two or three seasons that there are only four players still around who started that match. Jose Reina and Jamie Carragher started this game.

But Steven Gerrard was absent as he continued his rehabilitation from a groin injury that forced him to miss last season`s run-in while Dirk Kuyt was edged out of Dalglish`s new-look team - despite finishing last season as the club`s leading Premier League scorer.

Yet the transfer activity at Anfield has been nothing compared to the comings and goings at Sunderland.

Steve Bruce has been the busiest manager in the Premier League this summer as far as signings are concerned.

While Everton manager David Moyes is still waiting to make his first major addition, Bruce has signed no fewer than 11 players, including Wes Brown and John O`Shea from Manchester United.

But it was another United old boy who gifted Liverpool a perfect chance to get their season up and running in the fifth minute when Kieran Richardson brought down Suarez in the area after the striker had charged down a clearance by the Sunderland player.

Former England international Richardson escaped a red card from referee Phil Dowd and the player was breathing a sight of relief as Suarez blazed the spot kick well over the bar.

But Suarez quickly redeemed himself as the former Ajax forward made amends with a glancing header at the near post which beat keeper Simon Mignolet after Adam had whipped in a 12th minute free-kick.

Anfield erupted and Sunderland were on the back-foot. Mignolet had his fingers stung by Adam`s fiercely struck 30-yard effort in the 22nd minute before Suarez fell victim to a cynical challenge by Lee Cattermole.

It earned the 23-year-old Sunderland captain, who has been sent off five times in the last three seasons, his first booking of the season.

Liverpool were in the ascendancy and only the woodwork prevented Sunderland from falling 2-0 behind in the 34th minute after Downing powered through the visitors midfield before unleashing a terrific 25-yard drive.

Then came a reminder on the stroke of half-time that this game was far from won as Sunderland`s Stephane Sessegnon almost diverted Larsson`s free-kick into the net.

The visitors started the second half with Richardson going close, but it did not take Liverpool long to get back into their stride, the impressive Adam going close from 20-yards in front of the Kop.

Liverpool`s defence leaked 15 goals in six friendly matches in pre-season and they came close to conceding a sloppy 52nd minute equaliser after Asamoah Gyan wastefully headed Larsson`s cross straight at Reina.

But the home side did not heed the warning and Larsson, who was making his debut after signing from Birmingham, took advantage of some slack defending to hook home an equaliser following good work by Ahmed El Mohamady.

Bureau Report

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