Sunderland's post-Paolo Di Canio era started with a 3-1 loss to Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool on Sunday afternoon.
Daniel Sturridge put the visitors ahead midway through the first half from a corner, and he then turned provider for Luis Suarez's back-post finish just eight minutes later.
Sunderland pushed and pegged their opponents back through Emanuele Giaccherini in the second half, but Suarez sealed a three-point haul late in the day after more great work from Sturridge.
The Black Cats started on the front foot, fully backed by the crowd and eager to put the Di Canio mess behind them and start in the best possible manner. Jose Enrique made a couple of early mistakes that gave the home side the chance to swing a few balls into the box, but the first big opportunity fell to Rodgers' side.
Steven Gerrard fired a 20-yard free kick low and hard to Keiren Westwood's left, and the goalkeeper got down well to parry it clear. Martin Skrtel smashed the follow-up into the roof of the net, but the linesman correctly raised his flag.
The breakthrough wasn't far away, though, and despite the home side really working through the gears, it was Liverpool who took first blood.
Steven Gerrard fired in a corner, and Daniel Sturridge scored with what appeared to be his arm. It was a misjudgement, not a malicious act, but the decision to allow the goal had several scratching their heads.
Luis Suarez made it two less than 10 minutes later, stabbing home a back-post effort after brilliant work from Gerrard and Sturridge. Sunderland worked hard to get themselves back into the game before halftime, but they trudged into the changing rooms facing a two-goal deficit.
Kevin Ball's first halftime team talk appeared to work a treat, as the Black Cats came roaring out of the blocks and put their opposition under the cosh within minutes.
The visitors tried to pass their way out of trouble and control the tempo, but a nonexistent midfield allowed Sunderland to begin taking potshots from outside the area.
That was the source of Sunderland's goal. After Ki Sung-Yueng's long-range effort bounced off the palms of Simon Mignolet and back into the danger zone, Giaccherini stormed in ahead of the pack to smash the rebound into the net.
What followed was the ignition of the Stadium of Light crowd, roaring their side on in desperation for an equaliser. Craig Gardner and Jozy Altidore both had stinging efforts turned away soon after, and the Reds could only mount an attack when countering.
In the closing moments, as Sunderland pressured for a leveller, Mignolet sparked a quick break that saw Sturridge cross for Suarez, who swept home with ease.
Job done for Rodgers' men. Back to the drawing board for a Sunderland side who remain winless.
Winning coach Brendan Rodgers told Liverpool's official website that he feels his S&S duo are the best in the country:
I'm not sure there's two better in the league, in all honesty.
Those two are right up there with the best in the country. You saw that today... Those two will only get better; you see the understanding. We have done a lot of work with them together in training. They looked very bright today.
Interim manager Kevin Ball, despite the loss, told Sunderland's official website that he was extremely happy with his side's performance:
I think overall, in terms of the game and how we set out for the game, it was very good. The players endeavour and commitment to the cause was excellent.
...I think in the second-half everyone in the stadium saw us having a right go at doing it correctly and I think fair play to them.
Bleacher Report's Vince Siu provided the following analysis of the result:
Key Player Grades
Victor Moses, Liverpool: C+
Moses was supposed to be a focal point for the team in Rodgers' 3-4-(1)-2 formation, but it's very clear the Nigerian is not a playmaker.
Emanuele Giaccherini, Sunderland: B+
The bright spark in Sunderland's side. He roamed the left flank well, gave Jordan Henderson a real challenge and scored his side's only goal.
Full Player Grades
Sunderland host defending champions Manchester United on October 5 at the Stadium of Light in a late kickoff. Liverpool play Crystal Palace at Anfield earlier that same day.
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