Sunderland vs. Liverpool: 6 Things We Learned

Richard Morgan@Richiereds1976Contributor ISeptember 29, 2013

Sunderland vs. Liverpool: 6 Things We Learned

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    Liverpool overcame bottom-of-the-table Sunderland 3-1 at the Stadium of Light on Sunday afternoon to climb to second place in the Premier League on goal difference from Tottenham Hotspur.

    And Reds forward Luis Suarez grabbed a brace either side of half-time on his first appearance in the top flight for five months, with the entertaining contest throwing up a number of intriguing talking points …

Three at the Back Is Back in Fashion at Anfield

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    One of the intriguing questions going into this match was whether manager Liverpool Brendan Rodgers would opt to continue with the 3-5-2 formation that he utilised with some success against Manchester United in midweek for the Reds’ trip to the north east.

    Well, the answer was yes, with the Northern Irishman selecting an unchanged lineup on Sunday from the Capital One Cup loss at Old Trafford, as the visitors sought to end a poor recent run of no wins and two losses in their last three fixtures in all competitions.

    And on the evidence of their win at the Stadium of Light, Rodgers should carry on with this defensive system going forward, with the Merseysiders now resembling Roy Evans’ easy-on-the-eye side from the mid-to-late '90s.

Don’t Mess with the SAS

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    Liverpool got back to winning ways on Wearside thanks to a double from the returning Suarez, his first two league goals of the campaign on his first appearance in the top flight, after in-form front man Daniel Sturridge had fortuitously, and controversially, given the visitors a 28th-minute lead thanks to the use of his arm with his fifth league goal of the season.

    Brendan Rodgers on Sturridge and Suarez: "I’m not sure there’s two better in the league." -

    — Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 29, 2013 

    Either way, though, the Reds were not complaining. Already in just their two outings up front together since the Uruguay international made his long-awaited comeback for the club at United on Wednesday, the pair appear to have rediscovered their previously telepathic understanding.

    And that bodes well for everyone involved at the club, especially in the continued injury-enforced absence of key playmaker Philippe Coutinho, who is not expected to be back in action before the end of next month.

New Big-Money Recruit Is Slowing Finding His Feet on Merseyside

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    It is fair to say that Mamadou Sakho’s first three matches for his new team prior to Sunday’s trip to Sunderland had not quite gone according to plan for the £19 million signing from French champions Paris Saint-Germain.

    In fact, the 23-year-old’s recent addition to the Reds’ starting lineup had only resulted in Rodgers’ side losing their 100 per cent start to the new campaign, while also getting knocked out of the League Cup at the third-round stage by arch-rivals United.

    Sakho solid again today. Getting better and better. What a beast.

    — Jack Sear (@JackSear) September 29, 2013

    And all the while Sakho, who in fairness to the France international had been shunted around by Rodgers to feature in a number of different roles across the back four, and his defensive colleagues had also failed to keep a single clean sheet during their recent blip.

    However, the powerful centre back slowly appears to be finding his bearings at Anfield. Rodgers’ faith in Sakho—the manager could have replaced him with the fit-again Daniel Agger for the trip to Wearside, but instead left the Dane on the bench—was rewarded with a much-improved display on the left-hand side of the visitors’ back three.

On the Early Evidence, Mignolet Is No Reina

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    The highly rated Belgium international had an uncomfortable afternoon on what was his first appearance back at the Stadium of Light following his £9m transfer from Sunderland in June. In particular, he struggled to deal with any conviction whatsoever with any number of high balls delivered into his six-yard box, while also being at fault for the home side's only goal of the match.

    And this startling aerial weakness is also compounded by the fact that the keeper struggles badly when the ball is at his feet, as we especially saw in last week’s 1-0 loss to Southampton at Anfield, which is a major problem given the possession-based football from the back that Rodgers insists his back five play under his watch.

    Very sloppy goal to concede. No-one closed Ki down, Mignolet should have done better and no-one reacted to the follow up

    — James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) September 29, 2013

    All of which begs the question: Did Liverpool really need to splash out a precious £9m to sign a new No. 1 when they already had one of the most experienced and competent Premier League goalkeepers in their ranks?

    Anyway, at least the Spaniard is not pulling up any trees while on loan at Napoli … Oh, wait a minute!

At Long Last, a Second-Half Goal to Cheer About!

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    Finally, after 10 games in all competitions, an amazing run that stretches all the way back to Liverpool’s 3-1 win at Fulham in the Premier League on May 12, the Merseysiders have netted a second-half goal (watch the last time the Reds scored in the second half of a match prior to Sunday above).

     Liverpool scored a second half goal and scored from a corner. Whatttt

    — LFC Fans Corner (@LFCFansCorner) September 29, 2013

    And what is more, it was an important one too from Suarez. The Uruguay forward’s seventh in his last six appearances against the Blacks Cats not only managed to kill off the home side’s hopes of rescuing an unlikely point, coming as it did with just a minute left of proceedings, but it also moved the Reds up to second in the table on goal difference from Tottenham.

    So, all in all, not a bad way for the comeback king to celebrate the birth of his second child, Benjamin, on Thursday.

Lucas Leiva Just Loves a Tackle

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    The one and only downside to Sunday’s afternoon ultra-professional win on Wearside was the second-half booking picked up by, guess who? Yup, you’ve got it in one, Lucas Leiva of course!

    Good effort from Lucas Leiva to get a five-yellow ban after only seven games (all comps), but James Perch did in just five in 2010/11

    — Michael Cox (@Zonal_Marking) September 29, 2013

    And as a result of it being the Brazil holding midfield player’s fifth caution of the new season already, it means that the influential 26-year-old will now miss Liverpool’s next match, at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon.

    It takes some doing to receive five yellow cards in the first six Premier League matches of a campaign. Lucas’ suspension must be one of the quickest ever at the start of a league season.