Liverpool got back to winning ways in the Premier League, with a 1-0 victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
An eighth minute goal from Lazar Markovic proved to be enough on a windy afternoon in the north-east, although Reds boss Brendan Rodgers will be disappointed his side did not put the game out of sight long before half time.
The Reds produced an excellent performance in the opening 45 minutes, but following the dismissal of Sunderland midfielder Liam Bridcutt early in the second half, the level of intensity dropped and Liverpool were made to endure a couple of nervy moments to come away with all three points.
Philippe Coutinho shone in the number 10 role, and the Brazilian took just two and a half minutes to play a defence splitting through pass. Markovic collected the ball ahead of Wes Brown and was clearly tripped inside the area, however referee Craig Pawson somehow turned down the claims.
Fortunately Liverpool were not made to pay for that mistake by the officials, when Markovic fired his first Premier League goal just six minutes later.
Some neat interchange between Steven Gerrard and Fabio Borini allowed the Serb to burst into the box and show persistence to poke the ball underneath Sunderland’s giant goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon.
The first half was very much the Lazar Markovic show, and the 20-year-old almost added a spectacular second on 27 minutes, when his scissor kick volley from the edge of the box cannoned back off the post.
Steven Gerrard fired a powerful shot into the side netting from an acute angle, whilst Jordan Henderson also struck the woodwork with a decent strike having collected the ball from Coutinho – although he was wrongly penalised for handball in the process.
Fabio Borini then spurned a chance for his first goal of the season, collecting a superbly weighted through ball from Emre Can and rounding the keeper, only to fire into the side netting from a tight angle.
Steven Gerrard was withdrawn at half time having felt some tightness in his leg muscle, which allowed Emre Can to move into a more advanced midfield position.
A powerful run from the German saw Liam Bridcutt shown a second yellow card on 52 minutes for clipping Can’s heels, and it looked as if the afternoon was going to end comfortably.
That did not prove to be the case however, with Sunderland raising the tempo following Bridcutt’s dismissal.
The closest they came to scoring came from an Adam Johnson piledriver from outside the box which crashed off the crossbar.
Philippe Coutinho remained a constant threat, and fired narrowly wide when well placed on the edge of the box.
Mario Balotelli was introduced for Fabio Borini, and forced a smart save from Pantilimon after a clever turn in the area.
But failure to add a second goal meant the Reds were in for a nervy ending, with John O’Shea narrowly missing the ball from a corner, and substitute Madron heading over the bar when well placed from a Will Buckley cross on 90 minutes.
Liverpool looked comfortable overall however, and whilst the three points and clean sheet will be pleasing – you can’t help but feel it should have been a bigger winning margain.