Liverpool Shows Offensive Promise in Season Opener Against Sunderland, Will Need to Tighten Up Defense Going Forward

Game one of the 2011-12 season is in the books, and Liverpool got off to a very even start.

Luis Suarez was a mixed bag in his season debut, as the forward drew — and then missed — a penalty kick in the 6th minute before putting his team up 1-0 with a header in the 12th.

Despite dominating the first half, which included a 61 percent to 39 percent advantage in possession for the Reds, they went into halftime with just the one-goal lead.

That would come back to haunt them, as Sunderland’s Sebastian Larsson would strike home the equalizer in the 57th minute off a spectacular (albeit, uncontested) volley.

It was those types of defensive lapses that plagued Liverpool throughout the preseason. And while it’s too early to call it an issue, it’s the reason the Reds came away with just one point in their season opener as opposed to the full three.

Still, there were several positives to take away from Saturday’s match:

Charlie Adam: The 26-year-old midfielder was heavily involved in just about every scoring chance Liverpool had. He was flawless on corner kicks and set pieces (the team’s goal came off a low-driving free kick just outside the “18”), and his two shot attempts from deep narrowly missed finding the back of the net.

On top of his ability to create goal-scoring chances — both for himself and his teammates — Adam does a good job at controlling midfield play. The offense will be in good shape so long as he’s a part of it.

The Suarez-Carroll combo: Suarez and Andy Carroll are excellent complements to one another up top.

While Suarez is known for his speed and creativity in taking defenders on, Carroll provides a big, physical presence with his 6-foot-3 frame. He will be a nightmare for opposing defenders on set pieces, and Suarez should prove to be a difficult player to contain in the open field.

Pepe Reina: The goalie didn’t see a ton of action (four saves total), but he came up big whenever he was tested. Not even Superman could have stopped Sunderland’s goal.

Final analysis

While Saturday’s match was a disappointing draw, it was far from a terrible result. Liverpool continued to show the offensive promise it displayed throughout preseason and, for the most part, was solid on D.

Still, Liverpool’s momentary defensive lapses and inability to close out wins — two things that plagued the team throughout preseason — are something to at least keep an eye on going forward.

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