Quinn misses out

Liverpool 0 Sunderland 0 Attendance: 40,503
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Liverpool showed a worrying early recurrence of last season's inability to dispose of less-fancied opposition. Sunderland, on the other hand, will use their unbeaten start to life in the Premiership as evidence that their stay may not be as short-lived as widely predicted.

Sunderland started tentatively and their desire to keep men behind the ball resulted in early Liverpool pressure. Mark Wright, attacking a corner at the far post, was forced to stab wide from close range in the face of vigorous defence.

As the visitors settled, Liverpool's build-up became more ragged, with Steve McManaman's every twitch closely monitored by Sunderland captain Kevin Ball. David James made a fine reaction save as Niall Quinn, who had broken free in the area, drilled a fierce shot on target.

Quinn was presented with another chance of opening the scoring in the closing stages of the first half. A Dominic Matteo slip allowed Quinn to close down on James unchallenged. Having partially evaded Matteo his scrambled effort was blocked and follow-up efforts from Paul Stewart and Michael Gray also frantically scrambled free.

Liverpool were denied a penalty when the officials failed to spot efforts to block Phil Babb in a crowded box. Although the home side dominated possession, openings were rare. Gray almost turned into his own goal under pressure from Wright and the more direct route prompted by Michael Thomas over the Sunderland back five disrupted the visitors' effective pressing.

After the interval Steve Agnew temporarily switched to the left flank and broke into a shooting position. Matteo was the Liverpool saviour with a last-ditch sliding tackle.

The aerial route almost paid dividends for Liverpool when a Stan Collymore flick was met by a testing shot from Robbie Fowler. From the resultant corner a John Barnes header was planted firmly against the bar.

Though the game opened up in the closing stages, Gray and McManaman creating panic in the respected defensive ranks, the Sunderland resolve held firm to claim a fervently celebrated point.