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Match Report: Liverpool 1-1 Sunderland - A Tale Of Two Teams...

Wes Brown - Cool on and off the pitch.
Wes Brown - Cool on and off the pitch.

We might have entered the game with 10 new signings to choose from, a fair bit of deadwood shifted and a cup full of optimism, but as the clock struck 2:59pm, the all too familiar shivers, nerves, overtook any excitement which had built over the last however many weeks of pre-season.

This feeling lasted all the way through to 4:50ish when Phil Dowd eventually blew the whistle on a 1-1 draw at Anfield, and we walked away with a fantastic point. 

It wasn't all that way however, there were moments of extreme danger, massive whinging and fits of ecstasy. Just your bog standard SAFC match then eh? Let's relive the day with our match report...

The starting XI for the lads wasn't quite as we expected, but near enough. The 4-4-1-1 system we'd come to expect from the pre-season games was back. The only notable changes from our preview of the game yesterday was that Ahmed Elmohamady got the nod over Craig Gardner in midfield, with Jack Colback coming inside and Sebastian Larsson moving to the left wing.

For the hosts, the will he, won't he over whether Luis Suarez  would start was put to rest when he lined up alongside Andy Carroll in attack for them, along with the latest to flee the or whatever the cesspit is called these days, Jose Enrique. Anyway this isn't about them. We'll save that for next week.

The game started off very oddly. We had a couple of corners, the first of which was missed by the on rushing Anton Ferdinand with Wes Brown unable to do anything with the unexpected ball.

The second however lead to the games first talking point. Honestly can't really remember what happened other than the ball broke, Kieran Richardson belted it right into Luis Suarez, who headed towards goal at speed. While the Uruguayan spent time trying to round Simon Mignolet, he was unfortunately shot by a sniper in the crowd and fell to the ground like a sack of spuds.... no, hang on, Kieran Richardson tapped him on the shoulder and he collapsed. I wonder how often that happens in every day life. Next time my boss taps me on the shoulder to get my attention I might just collapse and do him for assault (I jest). Anyway, Suarez, the poor unfortunate mite, managed to dust himself down and send the penalty wildly over. 

Thing calmed down for a few minutes luckily, but we looked fairly sluggish whilst Liverpool constantly tried to hit us on the counter. With every Liverpool move looking more and more dangerous, it looked as though a goal was coming. Eventually, it did in the 13th minute, and Mr Suarez managed to get his bonce on Charlie Adam's devilish freekick to flick it beyond Simon Mignolet. At first I thought Mig might have done better, but it was coming at a hell of a speed I suppose. 

From then on Liverpool were in control. Noted woman-puncher-turned-striker Andy Carroll had a goal disallowed (rightly) whilst Charlie Adam stung the palms of Mignolet from distance. Stewart Downing came perhaps the closest to adding a second goal when his jinking run in from the right hand side ended with a shot that may well have the bar still shaking as I write this hours later.

The best we could muster in response was a Wes Brown header which looped under the bar, but easy for Reina. Elsewhere we seemed to be having trouble getting within 25 yards of Liverpool's goal, and as a result most our chances came from distance int he first half, with Larsson and Sessegnon both firing tamely towards the goal.

Congratulations to however won the sweepstakes for "When will Lee Cattermole's reputation go before him and he gets booked for nothing"... the answer was 26 minutes.

Similar congratulations to the winner of the other sweepstakes, the "If Cattermole did that he'd be off" award. This went to Liverpool's young John Flanagan who flattened Larsson in the 36th minute.

As the half approached we did look a little better though. Cause for optimism when a nice passing move lead to Cattermole entering the Liverpool 18 yard box, however he couldn't battle through.

Overall as the lads trundled off to the dressing room, fans and no doubt Steve Bruce alike thought "that was crap" but on the other hand "could have been worse."

Somewhat surprisingly, the same under-performing XI were sent back out to do something against our dangerous hosts, and again, surprisingly, we actually did do something - many things in fact.

First of all Kieran Richardson got forward well before sending a fizzing shot well over, followed shortly by Seb Larsson sending in a delicious ball for a quiet Asamoah Gyan to nod straight at Reina.

We seemed to be getting on top of Liverpool. I've no idea what was said by Bruce at half time to get such a performance out the lads but by lord, I wish he'd said it before the game.

Our fine play was rewarded with a fine goal. Gyan down by the corner laying off Elmohamady for a great cross, volley home with style by Sebastian Larsson. A truly magnificent goal as Larsson felt the power of Brucey's old mucker Mark Hughes run through his veins to unleash a stunning sideways-mid-air-volley-type-thing well beyond Reina. I could watch that again all night. You know what, I think I will.

1-1, and deservedly so.

This joy was short-lived however as on 64 minutes Asamoah Gyan went off with an ankle knock. He'd managed to play on after receiving one from Jamie Carragher in the first half, and once again in the second. Hopefully this doesn't keep him out of next weekend.

His replacement, Ji Dong-Won put in what is rapidly becoming a "typical Ji" performance. Plenty of running, good with his feet, and a nuisance for defenders who aren't quite sure what to do with him.

We seemed well in control as Liverpool tired. They had one or two half chances as expected for any team who lump it up to Carroll, but still, we seemed the most likely to score. Away from home too! Sunderland actually in control! Somebody pinch me!

As full-time approached, it was edge of the seat stuff. Liverpool with a mini-onslaught, which last season we'd have buckled under, but this season we have a man mountain in Wes Brown. If Wes Brown never plays football again, that's £1m well spent as he was everywhere, and a clam and reassuring head when required in the nervy last moments.

In the four minutes of added time, Cattermole decided he'd give it a go at winning this. A shot straight at Reina, followed by an inability to get the ball out of his feet when put in by Sessegnon.

It's all over. It's 1-1, we can relax, we can rejoice. Football is one of the most cliched sports in the world, but this really was, as the title alludes to, a game of two halves. Two completely different performances from Sunderland. We saw glimpses of last season's disappointment, and a much more positive second half we'd almost expected pre-match.

Team (Ratings in brackets)

Starting XI: Mignolet (7), Bardsley (7), Brown (9), Ferdinand (7), Richardson (7), Larsson (8), Cattermole (8), Colback (8), Elmohamady (7), Sessegnon (7), Gyan (6).

Subs Used: Vaughan (6), Dong-Won (7)

Man Of The Match: Wes Brown - Far and away our best player today. I think the man might literally ooze class. He was a rock, a beast, unstoppable. A masterclass in defending.

All in all a game which had everything. Ups, downs, some negatives, but plenty of positives. Notably the positives came in the second half, which will give us a massive lift headed into that match next weekend. 

Ha'way The Lads.

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