Sunderland jumped ahead with a fantastic run and cross from Craig Gardner that set up Steven Fletcher in the box. The opportunistic Scot was in position to knock the ball in the net to give his side a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute.
Liverpool dominated possession—as Brendan Rodgers’ teams often do—but the team was unable to be efficient with its scoring opportunities. The Reds had the ball for 66 percent of the match, took 23 shots, put six on target and came away with just one goal.
Raheem Sterling posed a constant danger to Sunderland on the wing, and the Black Cats were unable to clear his cross in the 71st minute before Luis Suarez calmly put the loose ball in the back of the net.
This fixture was important in Liverpool’s brutal stretch of games to open the season. The Reds were soundly defeated 3-0 by West Bromwich Albion in the opener, then drew 2-2 against Manchester City and lost 2-0 to Arsenal.
The team’s next outing is against Manchester United, and the match against Sunderland provided the Reds with an opportunity to earn three points. Now, supporters will likely have to wait until a September 29 game against Norwich for the club’s first victory this season.
The most disappointing part of Liverpool’s start has been the lack of goals from open play. Suarez’s strike today was the Reds’ first goal in an EPL fixture that did not come from a set piece.
Rodgers’ style of play is based on possession and creative attacking, but the buildups have not translated into threatening scoring opportunities. Dropping Steven Gerrard back into a defensive midfield role proved to be a smart move by the manager, as the Reds captain and Joe Allen play well alongside one another.
Jonjo Shelvey was unable to impress in his first start. He played in an attacking midfielder's role behind Fabio Borini, and the two players in the middle of the pitch could not maintain constant pressure on the heart of the Sunderland defense.
Shelvey and Borini each had chances, but failed to convert. Many of the Reds’ attackers have been painfully close to scoring on several occasions this season, but poor luck has kept them out of the goal.
However, if the team’s goal-scoring woes continue, bad luck in front of goal must be viewed as lackluster finishing. All of the attacking players need to be significantly more confident in front of goal and start finishing opportunities with far greater efficiency.
Rodgers can only hope that Nuri Sahin will make a marked difference in the team's offensive form, as the lack of quality finishing will continue to cause the Reds to drop points to teams that they should be beating.