Anfield droughts go on as Liverpool and Sunderland ends in scoreless draw

There was no surprise, no shock, no sense of astonishment at the final whistle. There would have been last season, when Liverpool won 16 league games at home, scored 53 goals and demolished opponents with enviable ease. But not now.
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet, right, gestures as Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, left, watches during their English Premier League match at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England, on December 6, 2014. The teams played to a scoreless draw. Paul Ellis / AFP
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet, right, gestures as Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, left, watches during their English Premier League match at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England, on December 6, 2014. The teams played to a scoreless draw. Paul Ellis / AFP

English football correspondent

LIVERPOOL // There was no surprise, no shock, no sense of astonishment at the final whistle. There would have been last season, when Liverpool won 16 English Premier League games at home, scored 53 goals and demolished opponents with enviable ease.

But not now.

Not when Hull had already secured a stalemate at Anfield or when Aston Villa had stopped Liverpool from scoring. An impotence in attack and leaden home performances have become a theme, much as the brilliance of former star Luis Suarez was in previous campaigns.

“The supporters are used to seeing goals and creativity, but it is a different team with different players,” manager Brendan Rodgers said.

This team, which invested £117 million (Dh670m) in new players in the summer, has delivered two goals in four home league games. Only Burnley and Aston Villa have been less prolific on their own soil this season.

This was an illustration of Liverpool’s difficulties at their supposed stronghold, a 90-minute microcosm of mediocrity. They still haven’t received a league goal from a striker at Anfield since the opening weekend.

Rickie Lambert has authored a heart-warming tale of a deserving character who, released at 15, returned at 32, but he doesn’t bring the pace his illustrious predecessor did to the attack. There was no penetration, either, and Lambert laboured fruitlessly.

Behind him, Rodgers fielded a trio of creators who were not inventive enough. Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling threatened with a solo run apiece, but there were few hints of the combination play to unlock a resilient Sunderland side.

The third of the attacking midfielders, Adam Lallana, did not impose himself on the game. It is a recurring problem in his Liverpool career.

And without the blitzkrieg tactics of Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, starting at speed and overwhelming opponents, they struggle. This was not a case of anyone being abject. Yet when they are collectively average, individual inspiration becomes more important. Liverpool lacked any. It is a familiar story.

And so an ongoing issue is the sidelining of Steven Gerrard. The captain was rested in a week in which games against Basel and Manchester United ranked higher on the priority list.

“We can’t always rely on Stevie,” Rodgers said. “Of course he plays on Tuesday, but it can’t be up to him to be the catalyst every single game. That contribution has to come around the team.”

It did not and Liverpool look unable to win without the 34 year old. Gerrard’s break lasted 66 minutes. “I thought he was brilliant when he came on,” Rodgers said. Gerrard’s cameo brought a greater promise of a goal, even if the eventual scoreline felt inevitable. Even Lazar Markovic, the worst of the summer signings, was summoned, more in desperation than inspiration.

He did not bring a breakthrough. Rodgers struggled to explain why Fabio Borini, so influential for Sunderland last season, has been unable to get on the bench at a time when Sturridge and Mario Balotelli are injured.

Borini is appreciated on Wearside, if not on Merseyside.

“I would love to,” said Sunderland manager Gus Poyet, when asked if he would bid for the Italian again in January.

His rationale is understandable. A couple of minutes earlier, he said: “We are just missing that cutting edge.”

But not as much as Liverpool miss it.

sports@thenational.ae

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Published: December 6, 2014 04:00 AM

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