REPORTS of Liverpool’s demise have been over-exaggerated in Martin O’Neill’s view.
And the Sunderland manager was happy to take a point from Saturday’s game in which the Reds at times threatened to over-run the home side.
“I think Liverpool are still a very, very fine side,” he said.
“And, without being too kind to them, I think overall they deserved their equalising goal – they had the better of the second half.
“I thought we played well enough in the first half, we were resilient and we got the goal.
“We didn’t start the second half that well, but, just when it looked as though we were getting our second wind, we conceded.
“That was disappointing because there were times when we had possession and didn’t use it very well, but, ironically, we were enjoying our best spell just before they got their goal.”
Statistics are in danger of haunting both teams.
Stuttering Liverpool’s have been well-documented but with Sunderland, it is the length of time the Wearsiders have gone since their last win – 11 and counting – which is beginning to gather momentum.
O’Neill was dismissive of that, instead regarding Sunderland’s start to the season – three draws in three games – as solid enough.
“Statistics? You can do what you want with them,” he shrugged.
“If you tell me it’s 11 games or however many, that’s fine.
“It would be good to get a win, but I’m just going from the start of the season, not last season.
“And, so far, getting a couple of draws from difficult away games, I can’t complain too much about that.”
The manager preferred to concentrate on the positives, not least another goal for Steven Fletcher and an impressive overall performance from the team-mate who provided it – Craig Gardner getting forward from his stand-in right-back role to fire in a great cross.
“Steven Fletcher cost us £12million, but he’s showing why we paid that for him,” said O’Neill.
“I’m delighted for him in the start he’s made and I’m delighted with him in getting another goal.
“He will get better, but the crowd have already taken to him and that’s great.
“I think he can go on to really link play up well, but I’m not oblivious to the fact that he has also scored all our goals so far.
“As for Craig Gardner, he has acquitted himself really well at right-back.
“But he won’t score as many goals from that position and that is always a concern because it’s an important part of his game – he’s got a great shot on him.
“He has improved as a full-back, but he is essentially a midfield player.”