Thursday, 3 February 2011

Debut delight as Suarez sinks Stoke

Luis Suarez completed a dream debut last night as he netted his first goal for Liverpool in front of the Kop to seal another home victory for Kenny Dalglish's ever improving side. An uneventful first half was followed by an entertaining second as the hosts controlled the contest and eventually secured a 2-0 victory, helping the Reds to consolidate their seventh place status after claiming nine points from nine.

Kenny's starting line-up left many dumbfounded as six defenders were named in the team, with Glen Johnson playing on the left hand side and Fabio Aurelio on the right. It was a team sheet that only the legendary Dalglish could get away with, however the Scot's brand of positive football was maintained as Liverpool dominated, particularly after the opening goal had forced Stoke to at least attempt to leave their defensive shell.

After a raucous reception for new £35 million signing Andy Carroll Liverpool started the brighter and kept possession comfortably without managing to penetrate Stoke's stubborn backline consistently. After five minutes former Liverpool midfielder Salif Diao hacked Kyrgikoas' goal bound header off the line, before Martin Skrtel reclaimed possession impressively in the Stoke half and strode forward surprisingly but confidently. Unfortunately, that was the extent of the Slovakian's attacking prowess as he slashed a shot well wide from the edge of the box.

Despite our promising start the visitors managed to get a foot hold in the match and contained Liverpool efficiently during the first period. Tony Pulis' team even managed to create some opportunities of their own as loan signing John Carew headed off target from close range before Diao struck wide from 25 yards out just past the half hour mark.

However, the Reds concluded the half in the ascendancy and began to play some enterprising football, with Johnson's powerful header from Kelly's right wing cross forcing Begovic into an acrobatic save 10 minutes before the interval. Moments later Kuyt glanced Gerrard's centre wide of goal as Liverpool improved and threatened the Stoke defence.

A free flowing and fast move forward almost saw the home side claim the lead on the stroke of half time as Aurelio, Gerrard and Lucas combined brilliantly to set up Dirk Kuyt. The Dutch striker shot goalwards promisingly but Begovic was up to the task and made a good stop to keep the scores level going into the break.

After a close, competitive first half Dalglish's side were desperate for an early goal to break the deadlock and force Stoke forward, leaving gaps at the back for the likes of Meireles, Gerrard, Kuyt and eventually Suarez to exploit. Thankfully we didn't have to wait long to open the scoring as Meireles struck again only two minutes into the second period to continue his recent run of goals and give the Reds the all important first goal.

Gerrard's low, drilled free kick deflected unexpectedly to Sotirios Kyrgiakos, who ushered the ball intelligently into the path of Raul Meireles amidst a manic penalty area. The Portugese then slammed the ball emphatically through the crowded box and beyond Begovic. It was yet another fantastic goal from the extremely impressive Meireles, who has experienced a new lease of life under Dalglish and appears to be establishing an exciting understanding with similar attack minded players in our side.

That crucial goal gave Liverpool breathing space to calmly control the rest of the contest with consummate ease, however Stoke reminded us of the slender nature of our lead on the hour mark when Carew fired the ball narrowly wide of Reina's post after collecting a pass from ex Red Jermaine Pennant.

Three minutes later Luis Suarez received a rapturous reception from an expectant Kop as he replaced Fabio Aurelio. The Uruguayan didn't disappoint as he displayed flashes of brilliance throughout his thirty minutes on the pitch, inspiring the Reds' attack and provoking a fearful and forceful response from the visitors, who welcomed Suarez to the Premier League with a thumping challenge immediately after his arrival.

Undeterred, Liverpool’s new number seven continued to impress the Anfield faithful, eventually scoring our second eleven minutes from time as the Kop erupted in celebration of what will hopefully be many Suarez strikes. A long ball forward was prodded past the Stoke defence by Dirk Kuyt, who also set Suarez through one-on-one with the keeper in the process. Suarez remained composed and cleverly wrong-footed Begovic before scuffing a left footed effort towards the empty net. Wilkinson rushed back but Suarez wasn't to be denied as his sliding clearance only sliced the ball onto the inside of the post and into the net.

With the points guaranteed Liverpool proceeded to attack the Kop end goal at will, with the persistent Jonjo Shelvey forcing Begovic to tip brilliantly over the bar after the Londoner had twisted and turned into space inside the penalty area. The resultant corner was cleared to captain Steven Gerrard, whose fierce strike zoomed inches over the bar from the edge of the box.

Liverpool have now secured three successive victories and look to have truly turned a corner following a simply wretched beginning to the season. A breath of fresh air has permeated Anfield after the dramatic return of Kenny Dalgish, and a sense of positivity and togetherness, values that are inherent in the Liverpool Way but were lost under Hodgson, has returned with the legendary Scot. Also, new owners FSG have made an important statement of intent, signing two incredibly promising and thrilling signings who should significantly improve our frontline.

Now, with Luis Suarez impressing immediately and Andy Carroll waiting in the wings, Liverpool fans are left asking one question; Torres who?


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