Liverpool 1-1 Sunderland: Suarez Penalty Miss Proves Costly

Photo by marc.bogman

It’s the start of a new season, and for a soccer fan in America, it means setting the alarm extra early (or waking up on your own two hours early, shaking with excitement), putting on a pot of coffee, playing the appropriate tunes, and participating in rabid Twitter discussions on the coming match. The first one of the season is always special, as it seems to se the tone for at least the first half of the season.

And as a Liverpool supporter, that’s how my morning went. Shaking with excitement (and caffeine), playing “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” and arguing about Kenny’s team selection. I had high expectations for this match, especially since Luis Suarez and most of our new boys were not only in the squad but on the pitch.

The first half started magnificently, the squad showing that pass-and-move is still the Liverpool Way. Fluid, attacking movement throughout the pitch ended up with a penalty (and nearly red card) when Luis Suarez was brought down in the box. Despite my yelling and whooping in the darkness of my living room, Luis ballooned his penalty over the bar. He did, however, make up for it by putting the most subtle of touches on a wonderful Charlie Adam free kick a few minutes later. Attack after attack was then quenched by Sunderland, giving Liverpool a slim 1-0 lead at half-time.

No changes were made into the second half, where Liverpool looked decidedly impotent as an unmarked Sebastian Larsson hooked in a wonderful side volley into the net. Young John Flanagan was yards away from his marker, which showed the lad’s inexperience. On that note, Flanno did look wonderful attacking down the right, but his defending overshadowed all of the good he did. For example, losing the ball on a couple of occasions and caught ball watching for Larsson’s goal.

The rest of the second half went pretty similarly—fouls galore by both sides (Phil Dowd enjoying the sound of his whistle, it seemed) and the Liverpool third getting attacked over and over. Liverpool had a few strong attacks but they were either quenched early or sent over the bar by Carroll’s head. A very disjointed and lazy second half by Liverpool especially, and fans have plenty to complain about from Kenny Dalglish’s squad.

Player Ratings: Liverpool

  • Pepe Reina: 9 – Looked good overall, couldn’t do much for Larsson’s goal. Too many punts to Carroll near the end, as he was desperate to get goals.
  • John Flanagan: 6 – Good on the attack, contributed well to pass and move, but was taken too easily on the defense.
  • Jose Enrique: 7 – A very bright start both defending and attacking, well worth the money. Still needs time to gel with the rest of the squad.
  • Jamie Carragher: 8 – Still without a bit of pace, but did very well to lead his troops.
  • Daniel Agger: 9 – Will likely be Liverpool’s best defender this season, his pace and ball playing helps start attacks constantly rather than punt it forward.
  • Lucas Leiva: 8 – Liverpool’s player of the season last year wasn’t entirely visible all game, but that’s how he plays. Did well to break up attacks down the middle without resorting to throwaway tackles.
  • Charlie Adam: 9 – Lived up to his hype of passing well and being brilliant on the free kick. Should have taken the penalty but nobody predicted that Luis would miss. Really needs to stop putting his entire body into a tackle, predict he’ll be sent off at least once this season.
  • Stewart Downing: 9 – Worth every penny: Creativity, skill, excellent crossing. Definitely the best player on the pitch for both sides.
  • Jordan Henderson: 7 – Showed flashes of his potential brilliance, but seemed a little too nervous in such a big game against his hometown team. Will develop into a proper player by the end of the season, just watch.
  • Luis Suarez: 8 – Was quite brilliant, but his nerves and lack of full fitness showed when he missed the penalty and was taken off early. Could have made the difference near the end but he couldn’t help that he was so tired.
  • Andy Carroll: 7 – Connected to many headers, but most were right at the goalkeeper or over the bar. Needs to develop much, much more.
  • Dirk Kuyt (sub): 8 – Always hungry, always tireless, but lacks the overall skill to make a difference off the bench.
  • Raul Meireles (sub): 6 – Made me sad that his impact had no teeth whatsoever, was really hoping to see him back into last season’s form. Maxi Rodriguez might have been a better   selection.

I’m not going to comment much on Sunderland’s players, but Seb Larsson and Sessegnon looked good on the attack and their defense showed solid resolve to keep Liverpool out of it late on. Cattermole and Bardsley will need to calm down if they want to stay on the pitch in the coming matches.

Overall thoughts: If Liverpool play all season like they did the first half, a top 4 if not 2 or 3 position is not out of the question. The squad will need to gel and learn each other’s strength, especially Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique, who will provide the lion’s share of assists this season. If Sunderland keep it up and keep their best players fit, they could challenge for Europa places, not kidding. Steve Bruce (despite my feelings toward him) is a bit of a wheeler dealer and has picked up some shrewd signings in the offseason. Discipline and shape are heavily needed, as many of their players fit a specific role and will need to stick to that.

What are your thoughts? Give me your Sunderland ratings as well.

Editor’s note: EPL Talk does its best not to print spoilers of games for fans who watch matches on delay. We have a special Twitter account set up at @No_EPL_Spoilers so you can still get all of our news throughout the day — except for spoiler alerts.

14 thoughts on “Liverpool 1-1 Sunderland: Suarez Penalty Miss Proves Costly”

  1. I think your numbers are a bit high. Downing had a few good runs/crosses but was non-existent for much of the second half and certainly no where near a 9. Agger is about the only one who could possibly deserve a 9 after that performance, everyone else is lucky to push beyond 5-7, while Flanagan was caught out for the goal and then repeatedly found lacking in his defensive duties.

  2. All the ratings are too high, a 8 or 9 is usually a player who dominates a match. These ratings seem like they all came at the half-time break. That said, player ratings are always going to lead to arguments in the comment section….

    Flanagan was okay in the first half, but was at fault for the goal and gave possession away constantly in the second; probably deserves a 3 or a 4 for me.

  3. I agree. The ratings are way too high. Lucas was dreadful. Poor defending and gave the ball away too many times. Henderson was awful. He didn’t justify his selection and Kuyt would have been better. Suarez wasn’t sharp and Flanagan was badly out of position on the goal, although 3 defenders on one in the corner before the ball was crossed (and not winning the ball) was inexcusable.

    Charlie Adam was excellent until his legs failed him. Carroll was active. Downing was excellent. Enrique was solid. Agger deserves to keep his place. Probably had 2 great halves. The others only played strongly for 45-60 minutes.

    1. Lucas was dreadful? Did you even read what he said?

      “Lucas Leiva: 8 – Liverpool’s player of the season last year wasn’t entirely visible all game, but that’s how he plays. Did well to break up attacks down the middle without resorting to throwaway tackles.”

      WASN’T ENTIRELY VISIBLE. Unlike some clowns (CR7 comes to mind) Lucas doesn’t play for the crowd, he plays for the team, and often, his work gos unoticed by someone just leisurely watching the game or doing it simply as a fan (or if you are a SKY pundit).

      But at least try to understand what’s being said before you repeat the same crap that people has been saying for years, and which makes no sense when Lucas has had the biggest number of tackles in Europe in the last 2 years and one of the best pass completion % in the league.

      1. I disagree with the premise that he was invisible. In truth, he was quite visible. He missed three or four short passes and his individual defending (the strongest part of his game) was awful. Players walked by him without blinking a number of times. Charlie Adam had to drop farther back to pick up the ball because Lucas couldn’t find anyone when he had it.

  4. these ratings are a bit generous. And that’s an understatement. All Henderson did was pass backwards and sideways, not much else.
    -Adam was good in the first half but disappeared in the second.
    -Downing was good throughout.
    -Carroll….35 million pounds….SMH

  5. Those ratings are waaaaayy overboard. Did you watch the second half?.

    Then again it’s a biased review as demonstrated by saying ‘I’m not going to comment much on Sunderland’s players’

    nuff said.

  6. What? No word about Carroll’s uncounted goal because he breathed on a defender and that defender fell down?

    But Liverpool couldn’t get another goal, regardless. It looks like they need a bit more practice to get their cohesivity down.

  7. Eights and nines! I’m a Liverpool supporter with the occasional case of bias but that’s some serious red-tinted glasses you’ve got on there, mate!

    We did well enough but it was the first game of the season – are you saying most of the squad is at the upper part of their performance in the first match of the season? Give yourself and the club some room for improvement that will inevitably happen.

    This looks more like it:

  8. Didn’t entirely agree with Kenny’s squad selection. The decision to leave Kuyt and Miereles out of the first 11 as they were two of our brightest players during Liverpool’s resurgence last season I think was a mistake. Understandably, Kenny wanted to give the new boys a shot but I think after everything Kuyt and Miereles did for us last season they deserve to start at least one game before they lose their place in the lineup. Downing and Enrique should have started without a doubt, maybe Adam, but not Henderson, and was Kelly injured? Or is Flanno really Kenny’s 2nd choice right back?

    Not a bad start though- the first half was a great sign of things to come.

    1. Spot on Josh,

      Downing and Enrique justified their starts. For me, Adam did too as he got the assist and provided some decent link-up between the middle and final thirds. I’d take him out once Stevie G returns though. Henderson for me should be one for the future and needs to earn his next start from the bench as both Miereles and Kuyt regularly provide more than he did to the opening match.

  9. All the quick passing and movement of the first half disappeared, not sure what happened in the locker room at half. In the second half, they couldn’t connect on passes (maybe just showing the need for more playing time for the new players to gel with the squad?) and started just sending up long balls up the middle to a lone Carroll surrounded by defenders. No longer were they sending a streaking midfielder or Suarez to the wing to get the ball on the wing for subsequent crosses to Carroll. Probably have to give some credit to Sunderland, as they tightened up defensively and made it more difficult for us. But we still should have been able to keep Sunderland on their heels with the talent we had on the pitch. It was just one game, and if not for a terrible penalty kick (Suarez…and how is that not a red card??? Last defender much?), bad luck (great run from Downing that would have been a goal-of-the-week if it didn’t hit the crossbar) and a phantom foul (Carroll tickling the defender’s back who threw himself forward to draw the foul when he realized the ball was over his head), we still would have won the game even with our flat second half…

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