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Four debutants started in weary Reds performance as they drew 1-1 with Sunderland on the opening day of the season, and with their star Uruguayan rushed back into action

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By Greg Stobart at Anfield

In a poll on a local radio station on Saturday morning, more than 90 per cent of people felt that Luis Suarez would be Liverpool's most important player this season.

The result was little surprise given the Uruguayan's stunning form last term following his £22.8 million (€26m) move to Anfield from Ajax in January.

His movement, skill and eye for goal make him one of the most dangerous players in the Premier League and he has emerged as the key to Liverpool's play, the man with the spark to turn a draw into a win with a piece of magic.

It was not a massive surprise, then, that Reds manager Kenny Dalglish opted to play the 24-year-old from the start in Liverpool's 1-1 home draw with Sunderland on the opening day of the season.

That decision came in spite of the fact that Suarez had had less than three weeks rest since Uruguay's triumphant Copa America campaign in which he was named player of the tournament.

Suarez plays with such effervescence that it is perfectly understandable why Dalglish was so keen to throw him straight into the side, despite his lack of preparation having only trained for a week and not featured in any pre-season games.

It looked justified as Liverpool controlled the first half with their quick passing and vibrant movement, with Suarez setting the tempo up front alongside Andy Carroll.


Sky high | Suarez was full of energy in the first half and opened the scoring

His penalty miss in the sixth minute was woeful, a spot-kick that he won himself but smashed high over the crossbar. Suarez, though, is the kind of player who will keep putting himself in goalscoring positions and he quickly redeemed himself by nodding in the 12th-minute opener from Charlie Adam's cross.

It looked like a new Liverpool, a new dawn to justify the optimism that has been sweeping around Merseyside after the club spent in excess of £50m (€57m) on new signings in the summer transfer window.

HOW KENNY'S DEPUTANTS FARED

 CHARLIE ADAM
6.5 Vicious free-kick to create Suarez's opener. Impressive long and short passes to keep possession ticking over. Tired in the second-half.
BSTEWART DOWNING
7 Offered genuine width and dangerous crosses. Deserved to score in the first-half after a brilliant run from the halfway line.
BJOSE ENRIQUE
7 Solid debut for the Spaniard as he defended well against the tricky wing play of Elmohamady. Didn't offer too much going forward.
BJORDAN HENDERSON
6 Had the unenviable task of making his debut against his old club but coped reasonably well. Did little to catch the eye but full of running until he was replaced by Kuyt on the hour.
Adam, Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique were all named in the starting line-up to make their Liverpool debuts at Anfield.

As Dalglish noted after the game, all had moments which demonstrated their quality and what they could offer Liverpool this season. The first half performance was surprising for its fluidity given that this group of players had so little time playing with each other.

Yet the second half was a different story - or perhaps a familiar one for those who were season ticket holders on the Kop last term.

As Sunderland grew in confidence and equalised through Sebastian Larsson's superb volley, Liverpool very quickly ran out of ideas.

The hosts looked tired, leggy and nervous in the second 45 minutes, failing to create any clear-cut chances and seeming to rely on Carroll's aerial threat to break down the Black Cats' dogged defence.

It is no surprise that Liverpool seemed to fade with Suarez, who raced out of the blocks but was clearly undercooked and gradually lost his sharpness before being replaced 15 minutes from time.

As the frustration became evident around Anfield, the players also seemed to tighten up and lose a little confidence. Dalglish felt the emotionally sapping "ordeal" of making a Liverpool debut may have affected the new players.

The whole team seemed to start full of adrenalin and energy and it is perhaps the case that Liverpool put too much into the first half and punched themselves out.

Either way, it was a mixed afternoon for the Reds: encouraging signs but plenty for the coaching staff to work on on the training ground.

After all, three of Liverpool's four-man midfield were new signings. In central midfield, Adam kept Liverpool ticking over with some nice long and short range passing while showing the quality of his delivery to claim an assist for the goal. The main question over the Scot will be regarding his defensive work and the Reds did appear to be overrun at times after the break.

Henderson, playing on the right side, was probably the least impressive of the new boys, running tirelessly but showing little evidence of his attacking quality in the final third before he was substituted on the hour mark.

The most important signing for the Reds this summer was a genuine winger to stretch their play and provide ammunition for Suarez and Carroll. Downing showed more than a couple of glimpses of his trickery and accurate final ball, not least when he made a fine run from the halfway line before smashing an effort against the crossbar.

At the back, Jose Enrique made a solid debut just a day after he was officially registered as a Liverpool player. The Spaniard looked very comfortable defensively against Ahmed Elmohamady and used the ball accurately without offering too much attacking threat.

Liverpool will improve this season, that is in no doubt. As the new players become integrated into the team, their play will develop more cohesion, individuals will form understandings as to how their team-mates operate.

With Suarez fully fit and Liverpool fully up to speed, the Reds will be serious contenders for a top four finish this season. It's just a matter of how quickly this team can build its own identity.

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