Suarez produces another virtuoso performance
Liverpool 3 Sunderland 0:The longing for the transfer window to reopen at Liverpool has over-hyped January as the answer to Brendan Rodgers’ prayers. It is not, as the manager has repeatedly been at pains to stress, but it is off to a convincing start after the capture of Daniel Sturridge was followed by an emphatic defeat of Sunderland at Anfield.
With Sturridge in the directors’ box, Luis Suarez produced another devastating display, aided and abetted throughout by Steven Gerrard. Martin O’Neill’s team had no response.
Suarez struck twice to take his Premier League tally for the season to 15 and, predictably enough, he was the pivotal figure as Liverpool established a comfortable first-half lead.
With visiting defenders also guilty of switching off at key moments, the invention, strength and precision of Suarez was sufficient to make Sunderland suffer.
Stewart Downing’s 25-yard free-kick had forced a fine save from Simon Mignolet, when Suarez made his first telling intervention of the night.
The breakthrough was far too simple from a Sunderland perspective, with Mignolet’s goal-kick headed back by Gerrard and Suarez taking over just inside the opposition half with his back to goal.
Spotting the run of Raheem Sterling, however, the Liverpool striker sent the teenage winger clear with a perfectly weighted kick. Sterling steadied himself then sent a delicate lob over the advancing Sunderland goalkeeper, his first goal since the winner against Reading in October.
Anfield celebrations should have been cut short three minutes later when Stephane Sessegnon and Steven Fletcher combined to release James McClean inside the Liverpool area. McClean dragged his shot well wide of Jose Reina’s left-hand post and was given further cause to rue the miss when Suarez doubled Liverpool’s lead moments later.
Again Gerrard was involved, releasing play down the right, and again the Sunderland defence was found wanting as Carlos Cuellar failed to dislodge Suarez with a shoulder charge or clear when the ball fell briefly at his feet.
Cuellar was sent sprawling by his own efforts and, although the assistant referee signalled for a foul against the Sunderland defender, the referee Phil Dowd played a fine advantage as Suarez advanced into the area. With Mignolet in his sights, the striker swept the ball home with the outside of his right foot.
O’Neill’s team should have reduced the deficit before the interval but Sebastian Larsson shot tamely at Reina after a Craig Gardner effort deflected into his path. The Liverpool goalkeeper also made an outstanding save low to his left to prevent Kilgallon converting a floated cross to the far post from Adam Johnson.
The second half was more one-sided than the first and Sterling could have added a third when Gerrard and Suarez again combined to send him through on Mignolet’s goal, but he shot wide of the far post.
The telepathy between Liverpool’s captain and leading goalscorer soon inflicted further punishment, however. The source was Gerrard, who delivered a quite stunning pass through the centre of Sunderland’s central defence from deep inside the Liverpool half.
The scorer was Suarez, who controlled with his chest and prodded a simple finish beyond the Mignolet to follow up his two goals against QPR on Sunday with another brace. Glen Johnson and Joe Allen were both denied goals late on by close but correct offside calls.