The dynamic duo were in scintillating form at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light yesterday teatime, the latter assisting the former to score twice on his return to Premier League football after opening the scoring himself, as Liverpool secured their first win by more than one goal to propel them into second place in the table.
Despite failing to reach top gear for long stretches of play and suffering some uncomfortable spells when Sunderland exerted pressure, particularly after they pulled one back early in the second half, Liverpool claimed all three points, primarily because of the excellent work of their front pair, as well as the supporting Victor Moses. Combining together encouragingly effectively, Suarez and Sturridge proved too hot for the Black Cats’ back four to handle, leading boss Brendan Rodgers to label the strike partnership the best one in the League in post-match interviews.
“Those two will only get better; you see the understanding. We have done a lot of work with them together in training. They looked very bright today.” Rodgers on Sturridge and SuarezSimon Mignolet and Jordan Henderson received warm applause from the home supporters as they returned to their former club as part of an unchanged line-up from Liverpool’s arguably undeserved midweek League Cup exit at the hands of David Moyes’ Manchester United.
Buoyed by the recent departure of Paolo Di Canio, whose eccentric personality and demanding managerial techniques made him unpopular with both players and fans, Sunderland started brightly, although the visitors created the best goalscoring opportunities in the early stages. After Suarez shot narrowly wide from range, Martin Skrtel converted the rebound after Kieran Westwood had parried Gerrard’s low free kick but he was offside by the narrowest of margins.
Midway through the first half Larsson’s fantastic free kick smashed against the cross bar, but Liverpool responded in the best manner possible, netting twice in ten minutes to severely deflate the hosts, whose incompetent defending came back to haunt them. First, Sturridge forced the ball over the line from close range from Gerrard’s corner, bundling the ball past the unfocused Larsson on the goal line.
|Sturridge celebrates scoring the opener|
Then, Steven Gerrard, who put in an improved display, found Sturridge with a brilliant ball and the England striker squared to Suarez. The Uruguayan tapped home from yards out to double the Reds’ lead before revealing a shirt celebrating the birth of his new child.
Rather than crumbling like they usually have done so far this season, the Wearsiders provided a spirited response, Gardner forcing Mignolet to make a superb save and Johnson curling over the bar before the break. After the interval, it took only seven minutes for the home side to halve the deficit. Ki’s attempt from distance was disappointingly dealt with by Mignolet, as he merely parried the ball back into the danger area, where Giaccherini lurked to gladly exploit the error and side-foot home.
At that point, travelling Kopites were worried that their side could throw away three points against the second worst team in the League, who were growing in confidence and posing more of a threat as the match progressed. Thankfully, though, the Reds resumed their role in the ascendancy during the closing stages, although fans’ nerves remained until Suarez scored his second and Liverpool’s third in the dying moments of the match. Before then, Moses’ excellent strike brought out a brilliant save from Westwood and Toure unleashed a powerful shot that the Sunderland stopper palmed away.
With a minute of normal time left, Liverpool went from one end of the pitch to the other in under 17 seconds to put the outcome of the match beyond doubt thanks to a wonderful counter-attack. Starting with Mignolet comfortably collecting a corner kick, the Belgian quickly threw the ball to the onrushing Suarez, who switched play to Sturridge before running into space at the back post where the number seven got on the end of Sturridge’s return pass and converted a straightforward finish from close range.
|Suarez is supremely confident in his own ability|
At the end of the day, it was pleasing to end a run of three games without a win; however difficult Liverpool made it for themselves by allowing Sunderland back in to the match at the start of the second half. With Suarez and Sturridge in this type of form, there is no reason why the Reds can’t seriously challenge for Champions League qualification this season.