Sunderland 1 Liverpool 1

Published:
by Stuart Vose

Fletcher on target again in draw.

Sunderland remain unbeaten this season after claiming a point in an entertaining clash with Liverpool.

Steven Fletcher's star continues to rise as the striker fired Martin O'Neill's side into the lead with a close-range finish just before the half-hour.

The Black Cats held their lead until 19 minutes from the end when Luis Suarez popped up with a close-range leveller to ensure the spoils were shared on Wearside.

Liverpool also hit the crossbar while Simon Mignolet was in fine form, making a number of key saves to deny the visitors.

Sunderland were shorn of the attacking talents of Adam Johnson due to injury and also lost defender Carlos Cuellar at half time.

Johnson's absence meant Danny Rose was handed a debut at left-back with Jack Colback moving into midfield.

The new South Stand singing end was in fine voice as the match kicked off, with Jonjo Shelvey shooting wide early on from a useful position.

Meanwhile a strong 11th-minute run from Suarez wasn't matched by the quality of his shot, which drifted well off target.

Then Cuellar's attempted back-header to Mignolet dropped short, with the keeper forced to make an excellent block to deny Fabio Borini who had nipped in behind.

Hearts were in mouths as the rebound fell kindly to Shelvey, but the midfielder failed to direct the ball back towards goal and the chance was gone.

Seb Larsson's clever free kick dropped just wide at the other end, but Liverpool were making more of the running with the dangerous Borini and Raheem Sterling at the apex of their attacking raids.

Borini was in the right place at the right time to meet Suarez's smart knock-down but found Mignolet standing firm once more, with the Belgian springing away to his left to palm the shot away.

But Sunderland drew the visitors' sting expertly and surged ahead with their first shot on target.

Craig Gardner left Suarez and Glen Johnson standing as he slalomed beyond both before delivering a devastating low cross which flashed tantalisingly out of Pepe Reina's reach for Fletcher to slide the ball into the net.

The approach play alone was worth a goal and Fletcher applied a trademark poacher's finish to take his tally to three goals in two league games, much to the fans' delight.

The goal electrified the home crowd, who responded brilliantly as Sunderland built on the advantage handed to them by Fletcher, who is looking like an increasingly shrewd buy.

Liverpool were calling for a penalty when Suarez tumbled under a 37th-minute challenge from O'Shea, but referee Mr Atkinson ruled that the Uruguayan had gone down too easily and issued the striker with a yellow card for simulation.

The remainder of the half was comfortable for Sunderland, but they were back on their heels almost immediately in the second.

Johnson's cross straight across the face of goal was a warning shot, and the England defender then followed up with a curling effort from the left-hand edge of the box which arced over Mignolet only to rattle the face of the crossbar.

Sunderland responded well with Stephane Sessegnon and James McClean prompting and probing, but Liverpool should have been level when the talismanic Steven Gerrard spurned a golden chance just before the hour.

Sterling's cross was palmed out by Mignolet to Shelvey, who found the Liverpool captain on the edge of the box. Gerrard went for precision but saw his shot clip the outside of the foot of the post and spin wide.

However, Liverpool were level 19 minutes from time as their pressure finally told.

Sterling's cross from the right bounced off the unlucky Titus Bramble – on for Cuellar at half time – straight to Suarez, who gobbled up the chance with a simple finish from close range.

It looked as if the goal might signal a Liverpool onslaught, but it didn't occur with only Shelvey threatening when he forced a good save from Mignolet with a low shot before Suarez headed the rebound over.

All square in the end, then – but Sunderland could have nicked it late on as sub Louis Saha's crisp turn took him away from his marker before he crashed a shot wide.

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Team Sheet

Mignolet
22
Rose (Campbell)
3
O'Shea
16
Cuéllar (Bramble)
24
Cattermole
6
Yellow Larsson
7
Sessegnon
28
McClean
23
Gardner
8
Colback
14
Fletcher (Saha)
26
Reina
25
Skrtel Yellow
37
Kelly
34
Johnson
2
Agger
5
Shelvey
33
Gerrard
8
Sterling
31
Allen
24
Borini (Downing)
29
Suárez Yellow
7

Substitutes

Meyler
18
Saha
25
Westwood
20
Ji
17
Bramble
19
Campbell
9
Kilgallon
12
Enrique Sanchez Diaz
3
Henderson
14
Sahin
4
Carragher
23
Downing
19
Assaidi
11
Jones
1