Following last season's controversial game at the Stadium of Light, in which Darren Bent scored from a deflection, would the lightning of controversy strike twice?
The game itself started at breakneck speed, with Torres controlling Gerrard's cross (from a free kick) on his chest and scoring in the second minute, only to be called for offside. The Spanish international would minutes later set up Dirk Kuyt for his first goal back from injury. Michael Turner touched the ball back to his keeper, Simon Mignolet, only for Torres to rush and pass to Kuyt for the Dutch international's game opener.
From a numbers point of view, the hosts out shot the hosts by three more shots, with two more on target than Steve Bruce's team, with a tie on corner kicks and same number of offsides, one. The crosses were 28 for the Reds to 23 for the visitors. Liverpool dominated possession, 54% to 46%, but Mignolet was the busier keeper, making three saves to Reina's one.
It seems there wasn't much to separate the two, right? Sunderland actually had the better overall play, with their passing mesmerizing most of the time, their movement proving a handful for LFC and all the while making it hard to know who the hosts were.
Roy Hodgson's team lined up in this 4-4-2: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Konchesky (Agger), Poulsen (Ngog), Meireles, Kuyt, Cole, Gerrard and Torres.
1. Glimpses of quality from Liverpool, at the beginning before Sunderland's equalizer from Bent's penalty, and towards the end from the time Gerrard made it two all.
2. This was Skrtel's best game in quite a while. He even dribbled past several Sunderland players only to produce a defender's shot - awful, actually - at the end!
3. Ngog's introduction livened us up, yet again.
4. While noting Poulsen's inability to seal up our midfield area, I also saw him drop deep to add an extra number to our back four.
5. Meireles has deceptive movement and is far more forward thinking than Alonso of old. He has the potential to be a very useful link between our midfield and forward line.
6. There was notable improvement deep in the second half when Poulsen left and Ngog came in for him, and Agger for the injured Konchesky. The ball moved forward more and Agger could have twice won us the game with late headers.
1. Little or no attacking of the ball.
2. Seemingly zero desire to win second balls.
3. A porous midfield that kept allowing Sunderland to move at will. Our midfield's lack of bite was reminiscent of the first half of Istanbul 2005 and second half of Athens 2007!
4. Poulsen's notable lack of speed in closing down the opposition. I still note that both Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher have never been speedsters but compensate with a good sense of positioning. The game seemed to pass our new number 28.
5. As seen in point four of the Pros, Poulsen's dropping deep made the team lose shape and invite Sunderland attacks, often putting us in danger.
6. Which is Gerrard's favored position? Central midfield or in the hole behind our number nine? I would suggest pairing him in CM with Meireles and Cole, leaving Kuyt/Maxi/Pacheco/Jova on the flanks, and Torres/Ngog/Kuyt/Babel as our centre forwards.
7. Where is Lucas and Babel? Why too is Agger not a regular starter? These players will not improve by not being played. A bit obvious but true as they can prove game changers.
8. No bodies in the opposition box when we break. The team often played deep, as seen in previous games, leaving little threat to the Sunderland defense.
9. We seem set up to play deep, with our defense both static and ball watching at times. There was lots of backtracking instead of holding ground and hitting on the counterattack more. This resulted in being punished by Bent for his second goal of the game.
10. The jury's out on service to Torres. He did create the goals of the game, with his persistence winning Gerrard the excellent cross (with a hint of luck) from the right, from which the captain scored.
11. Did we need Babel's pace, especially in the second half? I thought Bruce used his striking options well, playing Beckford whose pace obviously troubled us, and introducing Gyan when Liverpool were tiring. Babel might have proved a useful substitution.
12. I also thought we needed Lucas's tactical knowledge and midfield solidity more than Poulsen. We would have had a more dynamic midfield going forward and better cover for our back four.
Points of controversy
Did Steve Bruce have a case for Kuyt's first goal? The referee, Stuart Attwell, indicated that Sunderland needed to retake their free kick from a position a bit behind where they meant to, at which point Michael Turner seemed to kick the ball behind.
However, Torres did take a look at the ref following Turner's action, to which he didn't receive a negative, and so kept going. Attwell's decision was supported by the Professional Game Match Officials (PGMO) and Graham Poll.
It might remain a talking point for years to come, just like the aforementioned beach ball from whose deflection Bent scored last time round at the Stadium of Light. There could also be a case that Torres was marginally offside for his goal, which would have been the Reds opener.
I would call this game a nerve-wracking but entertaining watch. Unfortunately, Sunderland provided much of the entertainment value, with Bent's scoring from a pinpoint Onuoha
Overall I thought a draw was fair. A loss would have been harsh on either team. There could also be a case for someone who thought Captain Fantastic, Steven Gerrard, could have just reignited Liverpool's season.