DRAW specialists Sunderland registered their fifth stalemate of the campaign after a well-deserved point at Liverpool.
Sunderland were the better side for long periods at Anfield, with hosts Liverpool only coming to life after the introduction of Steven Gerrard midway through the second half.
But the Black Cats couldn’t convert that possession into goals, with Connor Wickham, who had earlier had a penalty shout turned down, flashing a couple of efforts wide.
Liverpool only produced one meaningful effort themselves, but Costel Pantilimon turned away Coutinho’s effort.
Jozy Altidore made his first Premier League start of the season in one of five changes to the Sunderland starting line-up, as Gus Poyet introduced fresh legs for the third game inside eight days.
Liam Bridcutt, Jordi Gomez, Wes Brown and fit-again Adam Johnson were also recalled, with Lee Cattermole, Jack Rodwell, Sebastian Coates, Will Buckley and Steven Fletcher the players to make way.
Steven Gerrard was relegated to the bench by Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, who didn’t even include ex-Sunderland loanee Fabio Borini among the substitutes.
Sunderland had a penalty shout within the opening two minutes after Seb Larsson picked out Connor Wickham with an excellent raking ball over the top.
Wickham appeared to be tugged back by Glen Johnson on the edge of the area and then when he got into the box, went down under a challenge from Martin Skrtel, but referee Neil Swarbrick waved the claims away.
It came at the start of a dominating opening to the game from the visitors, who looked comfortable defensively and enjoyed the vast majority of possession.
Liverpool didn’t produce a meaningful effort until the 23rd minute when Adam Lallana turned Anthony Reveillere down the right and lifted a cross to the back post which Rickie Lambert headed a couple of yards wide.
Two minutes later, Coutinho cut inside off the left, but his right-footed shot towards the near post was gathered cleanly by Costel Pantilimon low to his right.
Sunderland had a chance on the stroke of half-time, but Wes Brown headed Larsson’s left wing corner over the bar.
HALF-TIME Liverpool 0 Sunderland 0
Sunderland remained on top at the start of the second half and had a chance to open the scoring in the 53rd minute from Larsson’s corner.
Skrtel headed the ball clear, but only as far as Wickham at the back post, who flashes a left-footed volley back across goal and wide.
Moments later, Wickham collected Larsson’s crossfield pass on the left-hand side of the area, but saw his shot deflected into the side netting at the near post.
Lucas unleashed a low drive from 25 yards in the 63rd minute after receiving a square pass in space, but it was gathered comfortably by Pantilimon down to his right.
Pantilimon made his first meaningful save of the game in the 77th minute after a brilliant individual run from Raheem Sterling, who robbed Vergini in the Liverpool half and made his way to the edge of the Sunderland area.
Sterling fed Coutinho down the right-hand channel, but his shot was parried away well by the Sunderland stopper.
Gomez let fly with a first-time left-footed shot in the 81st minute which was turned around the post by Simon Mignolet after the ball spilled into his path 25 yards out.
FULL-TIME Liverpool 0 Sunderland 0
LIVERPOOL: Mignolet, Johnson, Moreno, Toure, Skrtel, Lucas, Henderson, Coutinho (Markovic 78), Sterling, Lallana (Gerrard 67), Lambert. Subs not used: Jones, Enrique, Lovren, Can, Allen. Booked: Lucas (51)
SUNDERLAND: Pantilimon, Vergini, O’Shea, Brown, Reveillere, Bridcutt, Larsson (Cattermole 70), Gomez, Johnson (Buckley 79), Wickham, Altidore (Alvarez 70). Subs not used: Rodwell, Fletcher, T Robson, Mannone. Booked: Vergini (41), Bridcutt (60), Buckley (80)