A VIBRANT and passionate demonstration by Liverpool fans against George Gillett and Tom Hick’s crude and disastrous ownership at Anfield took place after this encounter.
However, if he is not careful, Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson will also be finding his name on the list of those not welcome at English football’s most famous stadium.
Gillett and Hicks have hamstrung the Liverpool manager – whether that be Hodgson or anybody else – with a series of appalling business decisions that leaves the club in nearly £300m (€351m) of debt yet Hodgson knew all that when he took over.
That pair could be on the verge of departing Liverpool if RBS decide to call in their loan next month, effectively meaning the bank would be in charge of the club, prompting the duo’s exit.
It is far, far too early to suggest Hodgson might be packing his bags alongside them, but, having just about managed to get a point at home against Sunderland, a team that has not won at Anfield since 1983, he is certainly not doing himself any favours at the moment.
“We think things will get better,” defender Martin Skrtel said. “You could see the second-half performance was good from our team and we must improve.
“We need a victory and hopefully it will come in our next game.”
Hodgson overwhelmingly agreed with his defender.
“We need to work more together,” he said, pleading for more time.
“We have a lot of new players coming into the team. We haven’t had that much time with matches in the Europa League and the league, but I think that the more we work and the more the team plays together, the better we will become.
“It’s quite simply the ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ adage. There’s lots of things I see in the game that I think we need to work on.
“But I have a group of players here who will work at it, will get better and I think you saw that during the course of the game.”
It was an entertaining, tumultuous yet ultimately scrappy affair against Steve Bruce’s side who almost immediately gave Liverpool a scoring opportunity which Dirk Kuyt bizarrely profited from.
After referee Stuart Attwell awarded Sunderland a free-kick following a Raul Meireles foul on Titus Bramble, central defender Michael Turner tapped the ball back towards his own goal as if to suggest to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet that he should take it.
However, legally speaking, he had kicked the ball back into play and Fernando Torres brilliantly spotted his mistake, raced past him and gifted the ball on a plate for Kuyt to slide past the completely bewildered Mignolet.
Sunderland were furious with Attwell’s decision but, for once, he was ultimately correct and if there is any referee in the world who knows the regulations backwards then it is the pedantic, traffic-warden-like Attwell.
Rules is rules is rules in Attwell’s life and he ran this encounter from the law book rather than from the brain, frequently stopping play for the pettiest of misdemeanours and constantly running around trying to find a spotlight to stand under.
However, Sunderland allowed neither their own stupidity nor Attwell’s to dominate them as they, inexplicably, became the better side.
Old Liverpool teams would have chewed them up and spat them out having taken an early lead but those days are long gone and when Darren Bent converted a penalty on 26 minutes after Christian Poulsen’s handball it was entirely in keeping with what they deserved.
Immediately after the interval, Bent scored his side’s second when he flung himself at a brilliant Nedum Onouha cross to head past the helpless Reina as Sunderland superbly took the lead.
Still, the situation did not awake Liverpool from their restless slumber.
Joe Cole and Steven Gerrard merely inspected play rather than dictate it while Poulsen, Torres and Kuyt were all equally ineffectual while referee Attwell’s eagerness to award fouls for seemingly little provoked ire and frustration from both sets of players which affected the game’s quality.
Sunderland could sense a victory as Bent continued to stretch the home side’s defence while in midfield Steed Malbranque and Lee Cattermole endured a huge afternoon’s work as they tried to defend their own back four.
However, they could not quite manage it as Gerrard finally intervened with something worthwhile, heading a deflected Torres cross past Mignolet to drag the home side level.
In fairness to the Reds, they then went on to dominate the remaining 20 minutes as David Ngog, Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger all missed wonderful goalscoring opportunities while Sunderland, whose attacking mindset vanished the moment Gerrard scored, just hoped to cling on.
The fact they did does them credit as manager Bruce outlined, although he, like most others in the stadium, was not happy with Attwell’s refereeing.
“The disappointing thing is we could have gone home with a win,” he said. “To go to Anfield and play as we did is the pleasing thing. On another day, if the ref had done it right, we would have won the game.”
Bruce, a Manchester United great don’t forget, also outlined his concerns about Liverpool and is scratching his head about the ownership situation as much as anybody. Well, almost anybody.
Hodgson is certainly scratching his more.
“I think Liverpool have the right man in charge,” Bruce said, nobly defending his fellow manager.
“He’s got vast experience in a difficult time and he is just what they need.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved