A supine Sunderland ensured that an at times fraught week ended on a rather less stressful note for Rafael Benitez. The normally sanguine Spaniard has been shooting from the lip of late, the Premier League's veto of his move for Gabriel Heinze and the perceived inequalities of the fixture computer incurring the Liverpool manager's wrath.
His mood was eased somewhat yesterday as his side stayed unbeaten in their best start to a season in five years. They cruised to an embarrassingly one-sided victory in a part of the world where they have lost once in almost 50 years.
If ever there was a 2-0 hammering, this was it. Sunderland's effort and commitment could not be questioned, but their quality certainly could. Roy Keane plans to bolster his squad with the £5m acquisition of Kenwyne Jones, the Southampton striker, but on this evidence further recruits are urgently needed before Friday's transfer deadline.
That it took 88 minutes for the visitors to seal victory bordered on the unbelievable, Andriy Voronin cutting in to beat Craig Gordon, the outstanding Sunderland goalkeeper who denied the Ukrainian a hat-trick, from 10 yards after a flowing move involving Ryan Babel, Jermaine Pennant and Fernando Torres.
The result had been in little doubt, however, from the moment Momo Sissoko opened the scoring on 37 minutes, with his club's 7,000th League goal. As with most of Liverpool's good work, Voronin was involved, teeing up Pennant's knock-back for Sissoko after Xabi Alonso's searching cross-field ball.
Anthony Stokes, on early for the injured Kieran Richardson, went close in each half for Sunderland, but an appearance on the scoresheet would have greatly flattered Keane's side, who according to their manager could take another four or five games to fully adjust to the rarefied air of the Premier League.
They will encounter few better sides than Liverpool, whose only drawbacks to the day were injuries to the defenders Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher.
"Sami lost his vision in his left eye but I don't think it's serious," Benitez said. "We need to check his nose because it could be broken. Jamie might have a broken rib but I don't know how long either player will be out for. We need to check with the doctors first but when you have injuries it gives you a chance to see if the squad is strong enough."
Sunderland would have been on the wrong end of something resembling a cricket score had it not been for Gordon. The Scot's £9m price tag, for his summer move from Heart of Midlothian, may well be over-inflated, but the club-record signing proved his worth with four outstanding saves to keep the scoreline respectable.
Voronin was on the wrong end of the first and last of those stops at either end of the contest, the first on just 23 seconds as Gordon beat out a shot after the forward pounced on Greg Halford's weak back-pass. The keeper's legs were then put to good use at the death to deny the same player as gaps appeared in Sunderland's defence.
"Our keeper was a bit busy, wasn't he?" Keane said.
Either side of half-time, Torres, who stood out with his approach play, saw the keeper pounce on a goal-bound header at the second attempt, before Gordon beat out a low shot in a one-on-one with the Spaniard as Liverpool tried but failed to secure a nerve-soothing second goal until its arrival late on.
"I would have liked us to kill it off earlier, for the good of my health if nothing else," Benitez said.
Keane – who is unlikely to pursue his interest in the Champions League-winning defender Sammy Kuffour – though never one to take defeat lightly, was at least happier at the manner of this loss compared to last week's at Wigan.
"Sometimes you lose to a bigger, stronger squad and you just have to take your medicine," he said. "I don't like losing but I'm a lot happier than I was after Wigan, because we hung in there."
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