An 8th minute strike from Markovic was enough for Liverpool to leave Wearside with all three points.
Both sides had a spell of early possession but it was Liverpool who got in behind the defence first as they had a penalty appeal waived away after only 3 mins. Markovic was played through after Van Aanholt was unable to intercept the pass and the Serbian looked to have been clipped by Brown but the referee waived play on.
It didn’t take long though for the Serbian to get through again and this time he punished Sunderland with the opening goal on 8 mins. A swift move from Liverpool ended with a scrappy finish after the referee played advantage when O’Shea fouled Borini, this allowed Markovic to run through and poke the ball past Pantilimon after getting the better of Van Aanholt.
Liverpool were totally dominant in possession but it wasn’t until the 28th minute that they had another chance. A Steven Gerrard free kick had to be tipped over the bar, and from the resulting corner Lazar Markovic saw his acrobatic effort come back off the bar after Sunderland failed to clear.
Sunderland were toothless in attack and static in defence as Gerrard had another effort well saved and Fabio Borini hit the side netting after rounding Pantilimon. Sunderland were just thankful for the half time whistle as Liverpool were all over them.
It went from bad to worse for Sunderland on 48 mins when Liam Bridcutt was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Emre Can after the Liverpool defender went down easily under his challenge.
Sunderland arguably looked better with 10 men as they began to pass better and attack with more intent and they nearly found an equaliser through Adam Johnson. A swerving dipping shot from 25 yards cannoned back off the bar with Mignolet nowhere near it.
After seeing out some pressure from Sunderland, Liverpool began to control the game and Coutinho and Markovic were seeing more of the ball. Coutinho shot wide from the edge of the area and Markovic had an effort saved at the near post.
Sunderland’s best chance of equalising looked like it was going to come from a set piece and they nearly did equalise on 74 mins. A Seb Larsson corner to the back post was nodded back and O’Shea stretched for the ball but couldn’t get enough contact to force it over the line.
Sunderland huffed and puffed but couldn’t create any real chances in front of goal and were ultimately made to pay for their negative start.
Sunderland (4-3-3): Pantilimon, Vergini, Brown, O’Shea (c), Van Aanholt, Bridcutt, Larsson, Gomez, Giaccherini (Buckley 76’), Johnson (Mandron 85’), Wickham (Graham 76’).
Subs: Mannone, Jones, Agnew, Buckley, Alvarez, Mandron, Graham
Liverpool (3-4-3): Mignolet, Sakho, Can, Skrtel, Moreno, Lucas, Henderson, Gerrard (c) (Lovren 46’), Coutinho, Markovic, Borini (Balotelli 66’).
Subs: Ward, Enrique, Lovren, Manquillo, Balotelli, Rossiter, Lambert.
Goals: Markovic 8’