The visitors twice hit the woodwork at the Stadium of Light but, despite dominating large periods of the game, Brendan Rodgers' side remain without a Premier League win this season
The Reds were playing for the first time since families of the Hillsborough disaster 23 years ago were finally given a full apology for wrongly attributing blame on the 96 deaths on Liverpool fans.
But, on the pitch, the players remained frustrated as they continue to look for their first win of the Premier League season with four matches played, while Sunderland will also be unhappy that they were unable to notch their first three points of the campaign.
On-loan left-back Danny Rose was drafted into the starting line-up in Martin O’Neill’s only change from their 2-2 draw at Swansea City two weeks ago.
In the aftermath of the 2-0 loss to Arsenal, Brendan Rodgers swapped Jose Enrique and Nuri Sahin out for Martin Kelly and Jonjo Shelvey respectively.
Shelvey had the first shot of the match, snatching a 25-yard strike wide before Luis Suarez fired an identical shot the wrong side Simon Mignolet’s right post a few minutes later.
Centre-back Carlos Cuellar caused Sunderland fans to squirm when he tried to head back to the shot-stopper when his pass lacked power, and Fabio Borini almost put Liverpool ahead but Mignolet saved smartly and Shelvey fired the rebound wide.
Liverpool continued to press and the hosts’ goalkeeper had to dive low to his left to deny Borini once more, after the Italian sent an instinctive volley on target inside the box.
However, with 29 minutes on the clock Sunderland took their lead with essentially their first shot of the match. Craig Gardner did the hard graft, dribbling down the right before firing a pinpoint cross for team-mate Fletcher to tap in from six yards out.
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The goal caused Liverpool to lose a lot of their dominance on the ball, looking shaken by going behind against the run of play. Suarez, who was already being booed whenever in possession, added to the away side’s frustration by being deservedly booked for diving inside the penalty area.
The second half began with the visitors back in the ascendancy, Johnson rattling the crossbar after cutting inside onto his favoured right-foot from 20 yards.
Their upper hand was temporarily subdued by the likes of James McClean, Stephane Sessegnon and Jack Colback, who pinned back Liverpool and threatened with a number of shots and clever passes.
At the other end, Raheem Stirling - still being favoured on the wing ahead of Stewart Downing by Rodgers - sent in a dangerous ball from the right which was semi-cleared, allowing Steven Gerrard to gleefully latch onto, but could only fire inches wide - skimming the post on its way off the pitch.
With 71 minutes gone Sterling’s efforts were finally rewarded. The winger sent in another tricky cross from the right which ricocheted off Titus Bramble’s, allowing Suarez to pounce and tap in to level the score.
The Uruguay international had a chance to put his side ahead as the game dragged on but he could not nod Shelvey’s saved shot on target, and the home fans were relieved to watch the striker’s effort sail well over.