Suarez and Sturridge on target as Liverpool go top
Gerrard also on the mark in comfortable victory over Palace
Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool shoots past Stuart O’Keefe of Crystal Palace during the Premier League match at Anfield. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Liverpool’s return to the top of the Premier League was confirmed by an impressive first-half performance which saw Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge steal the show again in a 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Anfield.
The pair had dispelled suggestions they were not entirely compatible as a front two with all the goals in the 3-1 win at Sunderland last week.
This was more of the same as they scored the Reds’ first two, which were followed by a Steven Gerrard penalty for his 99th Premier League goal, in another 3-1 success.
It took the strike duo’s tally when both on the pitch at the same time to 16 goals, averaging a goal less than every 70 minutes.
Individually their statistics are formidable, together they are devastating.
Suarez has 19 goals in his last 22 games, while Sturridge has 19 in 24 games since joining in January, including eight in nine matches this season.
Sturridge’s form would seem to make him a certain starter for England’s important World Cup qualifying double-header next week – injury permitting.
He missed the last two internationals a month ago, coincidentally when Liverpool last went to the top of the table, with a thigh injury and minor concerns were raised about his fitness when he fell awkwardly in the first half, even though he managed to play 87 minutes.
Substitute Dwight Gayle’s 77th-minute consolation had no impact on this one.
Fulham striker Darren Bent repaid Martin Jol’s faith with a late goal against Stoke as the vultures prepared to swoop on the under-fire Fulham manager.
Brought in by the Dutchman after being marginalised at Aston Villa, the loanee came off the bench to secure a 1-0 win and potentially the Dutchman’s position at the helm.
It was not a comfortable victory for the Whites, far from it, but it was their first since the opening day of the season and first at Craven Cottage since April 1st.
It had looked like their miserable run would continue as Stoke dominated the first half of Mark Hughes’s first return to the ground since leaving citing a lack of ambition in the summer of 2011.
City were denied a clear-cut penalty when Philippe Senderos took down Stephen Ireland and Fernando Amorebieta was fortunate not to concede a spot-kick soon after for a challenge on Jonathan Walters, which was adjudged to be outside the box.
Stoke defender Robert Huth also had a header cleared off the line by Sascha Riether in a first half they controlled, although Fulham were denied a penalty when Bryan Ruiz was felled by Marc Wilson in stoppage time.
The second half swung from end to end, epitomised by Riether again clearing off the line before racing up the pitch to test Potters goalkeeper Asmir Begovic in the last 10 minutes.
The tension was palpable and Craven Cottage exploded when Bent slotted home seven minutes from time, securing victory in a match Jol admitted in his programme notes was a “huge game for us all”.
Loic Remy alleviated some of the pressure on manager Alan Pardew as his double helped Newcastle to a 2-1 win at Cardiff.
The French striker took his tally to five goals in his past three appearance as he produced two excellent first-half finishes to put the Magpies in control at Cardiff City Stadium.
The visitors surrendered the initiative after the break as Cardiff, inspired by substitute Jordan Mutch, pulled a goal back from Peter Odemwingie but they could not find a leveller.
The abject first-half display in Monday’s defeat at Everton had further increased speculation over Pardew’s future and, despite this win, he must again be wondering how his side can turn in such different performances in two halves of the same game.
During the first half there was no lack of commitment or bite, with the outstanding Yohan Cabaye marshalling a midfield which enjoyed complete control in the middle of the park.
But they could so easily have undone all their good work as they took their foot off the gas after the break, although they did not ultimately pay for it.
Hull and Aston Villa played out a 0-0 draw at the KC Stadium in a match where endeavour comfortably outstripped inspiration.
It is a result that should go down relatively well in both camps, with each side heading into the international break unbeaten in three Premier League matches and arguably ahead of their own schedules.
Despite that, neither side went in search of a draw and the chronic shortage of clear goalscoring opportunities can instead be put down to a lack of an X-factor in the final third.
For Villa, the formidable figure of Christian Benteke was a huge miss, while Hull were without four-goal top-scorer Robbie Brady (hernia) for the first time this season.
Gabriel Agbonlahor did his best to make up for Benteke’s absence but missed a fine chance to score early in the second half after Andreas Weimann’s cutback left him with an inviting shot.
That aside Weimann, whose pace should have been a big weapon against the 35-year-old Abdoulaye Faye, was well short of his best.
The Tigers, meanwhile, did not force Brad Guzan into a single save as Danny Graham’s lengthy goal drought showed little sign of ending.