Liverpool held by Sunderland at Anfield
LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Brendan Rodgers’ decision to rest Steven Gerrard failed to pay dividends Saturday as even the Liverpool captain’s emergence off the bench failed to inspire his side to break down a resolute Sunderland with their Premier League match finishing 0-0.
Liverpool’s must-win Champions League tie at home to Basle on Tuesday, followed by a trip to Old Trafford, meant this was a game which was always earmarked for the 34-year-old midfielder to sit out.
Athough Gerrard’s appearance with 23 minutes to go at Anfield lifted his teammates, particularly Raheem Sterling, they still could not find the breakthrough and had to settle for a point.
Only Aston Villa and Burnley have now scored fewer goals at home, where Liverpool have won just three of eight matches.
Sunderland strung out a long line of blue shirts across their midfield whenever Liverpool were in possession in their half, which was understandable considering it had just lost 4-1 to Manchester City after a win and three successive draws had given the season some stability.
The visitors were content to allow players like Liverpool’s two centerbacks Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure and midfielder Lucas Leiva to have the ball, confident the chances of them doing any damage was minimal.
It put greater onus on the creative attacking trio of Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana — plus full-backs Glen Johnson and Alberto Moreno — to find a way through, but they struggled to make inroads.
Sunderland had the better of the opening exchanges, with Connor Wickham twice having claims for a penalty.
The best chance of the half dropped to Sunderland with the final touch when Wes Brown planted a free header high into the Kop from Sebastian Larsson’s corner.
Sunderland, sensing its chance, began the second half positively with Jordi Gomez’s shot deflected just wide and Wickham volleying across goal and wide after Skrtel could only flick on Adam Johnson’s corner.
Sterling came to life again midway through the second half and Liam Bridcutt was booked for bringing him down just as he was about to burst into the area, but Jordan Henderson wasted the resulting free kick.
Gerrard came on for Lallana, and his deep cross and Lambert’s knockdown saw Coutinho’s fierce volley blocked by Bridcutt.
Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who had been relatively untroubled, had to be at full stretch to tip Gomez’s shot behind, but it was Sterling who was suddenly the real threat and he could have had a penalty when another incisive run ended with him on the floor after a challenge from Brown.