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Rodgers' style begins to hit home as Reds secure draw on emotional day


On target: Luis Suarez. Photo: Getty Images

On target: Luis Suarez. Photo: Getty Images

On target: Luis Suarez. Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool Football Club will never forget the Hillsborough tragedy and the 96 people who died 23 years ago, but the game must go on and for their manager, Brendan Rodgers, that process began with a draw at Sunderland.

Rodgers handled himself well during last week's revelations about the extent of the Hillsborough cover-up, but it is how he handles himself in the dugout that matters now.

Through all of the drama and emotion, it was easy to forget Liverpool's start under their new manager has been a poor one and they have still not won in the Premier League this season.

Against Sunderland, though, there was more reason to be optimistic.

Not only did Liverpool pick up a useful point on the road; they did it with a performance that indicated they are getting to grips with the style Rodgers wants them to adopt.

"It has been a big emotional ride, there was a lot of sadness and a lot of emotion in the build-up," Rodgers said.

"There was no deflection. The families and people involved in the city are an integral part of the club, there is no running away from that, it is something we very much embrace, it is a big part of the history of the football club.

"It is my job as the leader of the football club to organise and help the families and supporters deal with it and the way we can is by putting on performances like we did against Sunderland."

Certainly, Sunderland struggled to get the ball off his side, even after they had taken the lead through Steven Fletcher, who pounced on a cross from Craig Gardner after the full-back had broken through two tame challenges from Luis Suarez and Glen Johnson after half an hour.

Liverpool were mobile, passed well, albeit not always with the sort of purpose they needed to break the Black Cats' defence down and, in the second half in particular, they imposed their will on the contest.

There is still a long way to go, Sunderland were largely happy to let Liverpool play in front of a deep-lying defence and had they been able to counter with more accuracy, Rodgers may well have been trying to find the positives from another defeat.

There is a bluntness to Liverpool's play in the final third and their equaliser, scored by Suarez, was their only reward for 19 attempts on goal, the majority of them from outside the area.

Indeed, it was only when Liverpool's midfield, with or without instruction from the manager, began to be more direct with their forward passes that Sunderland began to wobble.

Rodgers' side were the better one, but they would not have been able to exert so much pressure had Sunderland's playmaker, Stephane Sessegnon, not forgotten how to control the ball and allowed his defenders some respite.

"They had a lot of possession without putting us under real pressure," said Sunderland midfielder Seb Larsson. "They keep the ball a lot more now and they're very good at that. They had a couple of opportunities and they hit the bar, but I don't think they created all that much for a team having so much possession."

Having seen Johnson and Gerrard hit the woodwork, Liverpool finally broke the home side's resistance when Raheem Sterling, taking advantage of a tiring Danny Rose, began to weave his magic on the wing.

It was the 17-year-old's cross that enabled Suarez to score the equaliser and it needed an excellent save by Simon Mignolet to prevent Jonjo Shelvey from grabbing a winner.

"I am sure it is difficult for him to take it all in as you get a lot of adulation for playing well," said Rodgers when asked about Sterling's impact on the game.

"Part of me is trying to keep him level-headed and make sure the whole situation does not distort his reality. We want to nurture and make sure he is around for many years, not just for a few months." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent