Big-spending Liverpool’s hopes of launching their Premier League season with a victory ended in disappointment on Saturday as the new-look Reds were held to a 1-1 draw against Sunderland.
Liverpool, who has spent more than £100-million on rebuilding their squad since the turn of the year, looked to be on course for all three points after Luis Suarez headed them 1-0 up at Anfield after 12 minutes.
Suarez’s opener came after the Uruguayan international had missed a penalty on three minutes after Sunderland midfielder Kieron Richardson controversially escaped a red card for his foul on the South American forward.
As the game wore on, Liverpool faded — with £20-million signing Jordan Henderson particularly disappointing — and Swedish international Sebastian Larsson levelled for the visitors with a spectacular volley on 57 minutes.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish had few complaints with the result but questioned referee Phil Dowd’s failure to send off Richardson in the penalty incident with Suarez.
“I think over the game, even though Pepe Reina only had to catch a couple of headers, for the effort and commitment they (Sunderland) put into the game, a draw was probably about right,” Dalglish said.
“Sunderland made it difficult for us, they worked really hard and I think they deserved a point.”
Dalglish was unhappy at Dowd’s decision to only caution Richardson after he had brought down Suarez when clean through.
“We don’t want to see anybody sent off, but we need to know where we stand and how they [referees] are going to implement the rules and the wording of them in the books,” he said.
In other opening round games on Saturday, Bolton gave newly promoted QPR a brutal introduction to life in the top flight with a 4-0 mauling at Loftus Road.
A dismal afternoon for the Londoners — returning to the Premier League this season after a 15-year absence — had started when striker DJ Campbell had a goal disallowed for offside early on.
It got worse for Rangers after only five minutes when new signing Kieron Dyer — aiming to relaunch his career after an injury-prone four-year spell at West Ham — was stretchered off.
Right on half-time Gary Cahill curled in a 25-yard effort to put Bolton 1-0 up before a second-half own-goal from Rangers’ Danny Gabbidon doubled the visitors’ advantage.
Late goals from Ivan Klasnic and Fabrice Muamba completed the rout before Clint Hill was sent off for the home side late on to seal a wretched afternoon for Neil Warnock’s men.
Some good news
But there was better news for another of the newly promoted Championship teams as Norwich earned a point with a 1-1 draw at Wigan.
Wigan took the lead with a Ben Watson penalty on 21 minutes after Ritchie de Laet brought down Franco di Santo.
But Norwich got back on level terms on the stroke of half-time when a dreadful blunder by Wigan keeper Ali Al Habsi allowed Wes Hoolahan to rifle in from eight yards.
At Ewood Park, Wolves came from behind to defeat Blackburn 2-1.
Blackburn took the lead through a goal by debutant Mauro Formica on 20 minutes before Wolves levelled through a Steven Fletcher header moments later.
Wolves went ahead two minutes after the restart through Stephen Ward, volleying in on 47 minutes in the immediate aftermath of a missed penalty from Kevin Doyle.
“You can’t ask for much more than that,” said Wolves boss Mick McCarthy. “It’s normal that if you go behind in the Premier League you don’t come back – especially away from home … It’s one down and 37 to go.”
In Saturday’s other early game, Fulham and Aston Villa ground out a 0-0 stalemate at Craven Cottage.
Saturday’s late game sees Arsenal take on Newcastle at St James Park.
Holders Manchester United launches their season at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday while Chelsea travel to Stoke. Manchester City kick-off their season at home to Swansea on Monday. — AFP