Sunderland 1 Liverpool 1: Suarez rescues point after Fletcher nets on home debut
18:52 GMT, 15 September 2012
Luis Suarez snatched just a second point Barclays Premier League of the season for Liverpool as Sunderland were denied victory.
The Uruguayan, who had earlier been booked for diving, struck 19 minutes from time to cancel out Steven Fletcher's first-half opener and give manager Brendan Rodgers a little breathing space after the club's worst start to a season in half a century.
On a day when the victims of the Hillsborough disaster were at the forefront of minds – Liverpool's players walked out wearing tracksuit tops with the number '96' on the backs and flags at the Stadium of Light flew at half-mast – both Glen Johnson and Steven Gerrard had earlier hit the woodwork.
Equaliser: Suarez (left) celebrates his second half strike with Raheem Sterling
Sunderland: Mignolet, Gardner, Cuellar (Bramble 46), O'Shea, Rose (Campbell 72), Larsson, Colback, Cattermole, McClean, Sessegnon, Fletcher (Saha 86).
Subs not used: Westwood, Kilgallon, Ji, Meyler.
Goal: Fletcher 29.
Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson, Gerrard, Allen, Shelvey, Borini (Downing 64), Suarez, Sterling.
Subs not used: Jones, Jose Enrique, Sahin, Assaidi, Henderson, Carragher.
Booked: Skrtel, Suarez.
Goal: Suarez 71.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire)
Fletcher's third goal in two league
starts looked like it was going to be enough to deepen the Reds' woes to
the delight of the bulk of the 41,997 crowd, but Suarez ensured
Liverpool did not return home empty-handed.
At the end of an emotional week off
the pitch, Liverpool arrived on Wearside hoping for much-needed points
on it, but as so often during the opening weeks of the season, they
headed for the dressing room at half-time frustrated.
For the best part of half an hour, they dominated possession, but were unable to make the pressure tell.
Raheem Sterling threatened repeatedly
down the right, but with Sunderland debutant Danny Rose giving as good
as he got, the winger's efforts went largely unrewarded.
It started in promising fashion for
the Merseysiders as Jonjo Shelvey fired just wide with four minutes gone
after combining well with Suarez, who then also missed the target seven
Tribute: Fans remember the 96 Liverpool supporters who died at Hillsborough in 1989
Shelvey played striker Fabio Borini
into space on the right with a well-weighted 13th-minute pass, and his
cross was deflected goal-wards, but straight to keeper Simon Mignolet.
The Belgian came to the Black Cats'
rescue five minutes later when Borini ran on to Carlos Cuellar's
woefully weak header and fired in a shot from a tight angle which the
keeper managed to block.
Eyes on the ball: Suarez takes on Gardner
Sunderland almost took the lead when
they were awarded a 20th-minute free-kick which Sebastian Larsson curled
into the box and just wide of the far post with Pepe Reina flat-footed
and no one able to get a touch.
The game changed in an instant with 29
minutes gone when Sunderland full-back Craig Gardner slipped all too
easily past Johnson and crossed for Fletcher to get in front of his man
and turn the ball home from close range.
Plenty to ponder: Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers (right)
Liverpool's confidence visibly drained
away as the home side started to take control, and the response from
Rodgers' men was tepid.
Their afternoon took a turn for the
worse when Suarez surged into the box eight minutes before the break and
collapsed under John O'Shea's challenge, earning a yellow card rather
than the penalty for which he was hoping.
Marauding run: Gardner set up the opening goal attacking from right-back
Great Scot: Fletcher pounces to score his third goal in two games for Sunderland
Cuellar failed to re-appear after the
break and was replaced by Titus Bramble, and the newcomer found his
defence stretched within two minutes when Gerrard and Suarez combined to
set up Shelvey, whose skidding drive was saved.
The visitors had once again started
confidently and Johnson deserved better when he sent an inviting ball
across the face of goal, but found no-one there to meet it.
Johnson opted to go it alone with 51
minutes gone when he cut inside and went right-footed for the top
corner, only to see his effort come back off the crossbar with Mignolet
Hitching a ride: Raheem Sterling mounts Danny Rose
The Reds were desperately unfortunate
not to be back on level terms on the hour when, after Mignolet had
beaten away Sterling's cross, Shelvey squared for Gerrard to clip the
outside of the post with a guided attempt.
Rodgers replaced Borini with winger
Stewart Downing four minutes later, but it was defender Martin Skrtel
who went close after Gerrard's deflected shot sat up nicely for him, but
his header was well-saved by Mignolet.
Point made: Suarez wheels away after scoring
Liverpool eventually made the
breakthrough with 71 minutes gone when Sterling rounded Rose to cross
from the right and Bramble could only block the ball to Suarez, who
gleefully smashed it past the keeper from close range.
Shelvey might have won it 10 minutes
from time when he cut inside on to his left foot and went for goal, but
Mignolet got down well to save and Suarez could not climb high enough to
head the rebound on goal.