Quick Kicks: Thoughts And Reaction From Sunderland 1-1 Liverpool

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Sunderland continued their unbeaten start of the season against Liverpool at The Stadium of Light yet are also still looking for a first league win of the season.

Sunderland took the lead (again) from a Steven Fletcher goal (again) yet were pulled back (again) and in the end didn't quite do enough to deserve any more than a point (again).

Here is what we made of it.

What The Gaffer Said

Martin O'Neill was happy to focus on the positives after the game, but also couldn't hide his disappointment at the loss of Adam Johnson to the injury which denied him a home league debut.

It was a terrific effort considering we had a number of members of the squad who are still not properly fit - as the weeks go on we'll get stronger.

Craig Gardner did exceptionally well in the build-up to the goal - he earned that little bit of luck. He managed to get past two players and drove a great ball in for [Steven] Fletcher to put it in the back of the net to get his third goal in two matches. That will be a big boost for him.

Gardner was great today and [Jack] Colback was also outstanding - there were a number of very good performances.

It was always going to be difficult with Liverpool searching for that equalising goal. Not many in the stadium would say that they didn't deserve it.

We gave the ball away a little bit in the second half and I think that is something we must improve on.

When we're under pressure in games we need to be able to take the sting out of matches.

It was disappointing to concede the goal, especially at a point where we just getting back into the game in terms of possession.

Adam was a major loss to us. At the moment we can't afford to have real quality players out of the team.

We missed his trickery and his ability to go past players and eke out an opening at times when we had good possession of the ball.

Losing him was a blow, as was Carlos coming off. I'm not sure how bad he is but I thought the best thing to do was take him off when we did.

I think that in the grand scheme of things a point was a decent result, although frustration is the overriding feeling right now. In the last two games we have been leading three times and three times we have surrendered it.

Great that we have that cutting edge now to score in tight games and when not playing well. That bodes well. Hopefully knowing how to turn leads into wins is something that will come as the season progresses. (MG)

Gardner Man In Possession

OK, so the fact that I am not a massive Phil Bardsley fan is not exactly a secret, but I think that even his biggest fans - the ones who voted him PoTY ahead of Sessegnon last season, those ones - would be hard-pressed to make a credible case for Craig Gardner losing his spot at right back on current form.

Gardner was a genuine positive influence on the game against Liverpool, creating Steven Fletcher's goal with a dynamic piece of attacking play, but it is his defending that has really stood out. No Sunderland player has made more clearances than Craig Gardner this season and he even leads the way in headed clearances too.

With the likes of David Vaughan and David Meyler available to cover midfield, surely Gardner has earned an extended run at full back as a genuine first choice. (MG)

Rose Can Blossom

The last of the summer recruits made his debut and, for the most part, it was impressive enough. He was up against a bit of a livewire in Raheem Sterling and did struggle at times, most noteably for the equalizing goal, but overall he made a good impression.

Rose arrived in the north east a little bit of an unknown quantity. He has never really enjoyed a run of games for Spurs and the odd game for England U-21s or Team GB was about all we had seen of him. If his debut is anything to go by, he is very comfortable on the ball (87% pass completion) and generally progressive with a team high of the starting line-up for forward pass percentage (63%).

Perhaps Rose was not the thorn in the side that we hoped, but there is every indication that he can blossom into an important player for us this season. (I'm not even sorry) (MG)

Safe Pair Of Hands

It is genuinely becoming difficult to remember a time when Sunderland had a good and reliable long term goalkeeper. Craig Gordon was supposed to be it, but could never stay fit. Darren Ward was quality in the Championship but short-lived. Kelvin Davis was, well, lets not go there. Mart Poom and Thomas Mhyre shared the job and were both excellent. But for a truly established number one we probably have to go all the way back to Thomas Sorensen.

All the signs are there that Simon Mignolet could be about to end that long wait, however. Once again, his performance was flawless making big saves at big times and making them look relatively easy.

He isn't perfect, and if you can mention Mignolet's name without someone complaining about his distribution then you are considerably luckier than you realise, but we are very lucky to have such a good young goalkeeper at the club and he probably still doesn't get the credit he deserves. (MG)

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