One virtue that helped Roy Hodgson to become Liverpool's manager was a level of common sense which appeared to have eluded his two predecessors. Where Gérard Houllier seemed to exude paranoia towards the end of his reign, using the amount of corners his side had earned in games as a gauge of their success, and Rafael Benítez obsessed over feuds with the Anfield hierarchy, Hodgson was seen to be a wise figure who would spread calm through a club in distress.
In that regard, his demeanour after this match was concerning. Hodgson was prickly in response to the questions put to him and in one instance spoke in a manner that was almost alarmingly confusing.
"I'm sorry but I cannot see the drama you want to make of that," he replied, when asked if this draw had been particularly disappointing given Liverpool's desire for a morale-boosting win following their defeat by Northampton Town in the Carling Cup. "This group of players were not involved in the Carling Cup, I've explained that a dozen times, I don't know how many times I've got to go back to the Carling Cup." But then he added this: "But you're right, it was a disappointing night [against Northampton] and that disappointment could have carried over today."
To suggest Hodgson is exhausted after a spell in charge of Liverpool that has seen them win one of seven domestic games, lose to a side who are 13th in League Two and continue to endure a draining saga over the ownership of the club is perhaps extreme, but as autumn takes its grip the beaming 62-year-old who walked into Anfield on a sun-drenched July day and spoke of his "honour" in taking over at the club seems to have vanished.
Maybe that was no surprise after a match in which he had seen his team start brightly but then lose rhythm and cohesion against opponents who would have won through goals from Darren Bent either side of half-time had it not been for an equalising header from Steven Gerrard on 64 minutes.
Hodgson claimed that the chances Liverpool created after that, most notably from Daniel Agger, meant they were "worth a point", but he was in a minority and more agreement could be found in his assessment that Liverpool remain well short of challenging for a top-four place.
"At the moment our major problem is dealing with expectations," he said. "There are a lot of new players [and] uncertainty over the ownership of the club and the minute you are not top of the table people are saying this is not good enough. That anxiety will play upon us but we cannot do more than we are doing."
A call for patience was also expressed by the forward Dirk Kuyt – "It's only a matter of time before we are playing at our level" – and with Fernando Torres gaining more match sharpness (if not more goals), Joe Cole able to bed into the team and Gerrard playing close to his best, Liverpool should improve. It is even possible that the boardroom dramas, which on Saturday prompted a sit-in protest by supporters, could be drawing to an end. The deadline for the American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, to refinance their loans to the banks is approaching.
But even at this early stage, Liverpool need to find some momentum. This is now their worst start to a season since 1953-54 and Sunderland will feel that their plight should be worse, given their display and the manner in which they fell behind.
"A joke" is how Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, described Kuyt's fifth-minute opener, which came after Torres intercepted a backpass from Michael Turner to his goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet, which the referee, Stuart Attwell, deemed to be the free-kick that he had just awarded the visitors.
Sunderland broke out in a rage, claiming Turner was simply moving the ball into position so Mignolet could take the set piece himself. Attwell consulted with his assistant but still gave the goal.
"I watched the incident and it's crazy, the referee had his back to the play," said Bruce of the official. Attwell was defended by the Premier League but he already had a reputation soured by his awarding of an infamous Reading "ghost goal" against Watford in 2008.
Hodgson had his own grumblings against the 27-year-old but for him it was a day to be thankful for small mercies.
This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.