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Sunderland's Spoils Lacklustre Liverpool's Party

Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson spoils party for lacklustre LiverpoolThe Liverpool fans arrived for the new season full of eager anticipation, and were in good voice when Luis Suárez gave them an early lead, but Sunderland dug deep and came away with a point, courtesy of debutant Sebastian Larsson's spectacular volleyed equaliser.

Both teams have been in the market for reinforcements during the summer and there was no shortage of new faces for the fans to check out. Liverpool gave debuts to José Enrique, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing, while Larsson and Wes Brown made their first starts for Sunderland. Liverpool dominated the first half, with Adam outstanding in midfield, and might have had the game won by the interval. They spurned a penalty when Suárez was brought down by Kieran Richardson and got to his feet, only to fire over the bar from 12 yards.

The Uruguayan's profligacy appeared to be of little consequence after he atoned with the opening goal, in the 12th minute, heading in Adam's left-footed free-kick from the right at the near post.

For the rest of the first half there was only one team in it, Downing rattling the crossbar and Andy Carroll and Adam also threatening to increase the lead. It didn't happen, though, and in the second half Sunderland showed a marked improvement, with Larsson influential on the left, tormenting young John Flanagan. The full-back's mistake let in the Swede for a cross which deserved a better fate than Asamoah Gyan's poorly directed header.

Then, in the 56th minute, equality was restored when a right-wing cross from Ahmed Elmohamady reached the far post, where Larsson volleyed it back whence it came; inside José Reina's left-hand upright. After starting brightly, Liverpool had lost some of their cohesion. Their rhythm, and two points, went with it.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Joe Lovejoy at Anfield, for The Observer on Saturday 13th August 2011 17.00 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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