Thursday, 31 January 2013

Reds held by Gunners

Liverpool and Arsenal played out a typically entertaining clash at the Emirates Stadium last night. Goals from Luis Suarez and Jordan Henderson gave the visitors an unexpected lead but the Gunners fought back, netting twice in two minutes to quickly crush the Reds' dreams of accumulating three points for the first time against a team in the top ten and earn a draw for Arsene Wenger's side.

Brendan Rodgers made seven changes to the side that lost so disappointingly against Oldham Athletic in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Sunday, as Pepe Reina thankfully returned from injury to replace the awful Brad Jones in goal, while Carragher returned to the defence to provide some much needed experience and Steven Gerrard stabilised the midfield alongside the ever improving Henderson and the ever reliable Lucas.

Whereas poor defending cost Liverpool an early opener against Oldham, the exploitation of Arsenal's defensive errors enabled the Reds to break the deadlock after only five minutes had been played. Sagna's slip allowed Johnson to ghost in and cross to Sturridge, whose shot was saved. The ball then fell to Henderson, who set up Suarez. The on-form Uruguyuan saw his strike deflected past Szczesny off Mertesacker.

22 and counting- Suarez has been in top goalscoring form
Sturridge almost added to the away side's advantage only moments later, as goalkeeper Szczesny ludicrously attempted a Cruyff  turn when the situation demanded that he clear the ball long. Unfortunately, Szczesny survived the scare as, when he eventually won the ball, Sturridge was in a position that made it difficult for him to find the goal. 

In response, Arsenal piled on the pressure but Liverpool defended surprisingly well, remaining resolute, while Reina, who has had arguably his worst season in a Red shirt, pulled off a couple of top notch saves to deny Theo Walcott, potentially hinting at an improved second half of the season from the Spaniard. 

At the other end, Liverpool continued to threaten. Agger headed goalwards twice, the first being cleared off the line by Podolski and the second saved by Szczesny, while Henderson chipped onto the roof of the net as Arsenal's back line remained their fundamental weakness.

With the hosts enjoying 59% of first half possession, Liverpool were unable to play the type of passing game manager Brendan Rodgers normally demands. Nonetheless, the Northern Irishman would have been pleased with the way his side defended well, counter-attacked productively and secured a lead heading into the half time interval.

Soon after the restart, there were penalty shouts at both ends. First, referee Kevin  Friend ignored Liverpool's justified appeals for a spot kick after Vermaelen appeared to handle in the box under pressure from Sturridge. Then, Podolski went down easily under a shoulder barge from Wisdom and thankfully a penalty wasn't awarded. 

Against the run of play, Henderson doubled Liverpool's lead on the hour mark, magnificently holding off Mertesacker and Santos before benefiting from a ricochet off Ramsey, which allowed him to convert into an empty net. 

Had Liverpool held onto their two-goal lead for 10 minutes then Arsenal would probably have become demoralised and they, in all likelihood, would have completed an impressive victory. As it was, the Londoners mounted a remarkable comeback, scoring their first at precisely the right moment, building up momentum for an equaliser.

Only five minutes after Henderson had struck, the unchallenged Giroud headed home Wilshere's free kick. Minutes later, Walcott, who had been linked with a move to Merseyside before putting pen to paper on a new contract at Arsenal, blasted into the corner from a tight angle to turn the game completely upside down. 

Sting in the tail- Walcott's equaliser was hard to take
On the back foot, Liverpool looked to regroup and ensure they took at least a point from the contest, left back Jose Enrique replacing striker Sturridge. 26-year old French forward Olivier Giroud seemed to be central to Arsenal's attack in the closing stages. Reina made a good save to deny him a goal, before he squared up to Agger after diving outside the area. The referee thankfully saw his misdemeanor and booked him for simulation. Perhaps more embarrassingly, Giroud missed a gilt-edged opportunity three minutes from time, scarcely making contact with the ball when he was unmarked literally yards out with the goal at his mercy. 

It was a piece of good fortune that Liverpool's performance had earned. Had they played with the same intensity and application against Oldham then they would have battered the League One side and put Paul Dickov out of a job. Nevertheless, a draw away to Arsenal should be viewed as one point gained, not two lost, because the Gunners were favourites going into the game, although it's hard to avoid disappointment considering the way the match panned out.

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Not good enough. - Mike Humphreys

We looked nervous after they scored one. Can't have that. Need to keep it comfortable. - Dean Nemmer

Disappointment. We seem to have the knack of not killing games off. Frustrating! - Mick Mackay 


Monday, 28 January 2013

Cup shock as Oldham knock out Reds

Liverpool crashed out of the FA Cup at the fourth round stage to lowly League One outfit Oldham Athletic yesterday evening. The humbled Reds returned to Merseyside deservedly defeated after they met Oldham's spirited display with a poor performance of their own. Suarez responded to Smith's early opener with a quick equaliser, but Allen's late strike wasn't enough to compensate for a further Smith goal and Wabara's header, as Rodgers' side became arguably the biggest scalp of a weekend of giant-killings.

Despite Oldham's poor form and the Reds' recent resurgence, prior to kick off there was a feeling that a Cup upset could be on the cards. The home support were further fired up only two minutes in, as the poor defending that became characteristic of Liverpool's display cost them dearly. Coates, who has been linked with a move away from Anfield, was particularly awful throughout the 90 minutes. It was his decision to permit Smith too much space in the box that allowed the tall 23-year old to tower above the Uruguayan and bundle the ball home with a close range header.

Dreamland- Smith gave Oldham the perfect start
The atmosphere was at fever pitch, which was reflected in the fiery confrontation between Brad Jones and Robbie Simpson after the latter tried to take advantage of the former spilling the ball. Although he was booked for unsporting behaviour, Simpson achieved his aim as Jones lacked confidence for the rest of the contest and was culpable for Oldham's second goal on the stroke of half time.

Out of the blue, Luis Suarez (who else?) equalised for the visitors on 17 minutes, converting past former Liverpool keeper Dean Bouzanis- who Rafael Benitez described as "the best goalkeeper in the world for his age" upon signing him as a 16-year old- after inadvertently playing a one-two off an Oldham defender. The skipper for the day then deftly headed Henderson's free kick home but the goal was chalked out for offside. 

On the half hour mark, Sterling's low shot was saved after a flowing counter-attack had culminated in Borini back heeling the ball into his path. Liverpool's attack wasn't the issue, though. The problems the away side were experiencing emanated from an unconventional back four who evidently didn't know either how to play together or deal with the physical approach of Oldham's front line. 

Jose Baxter and Simpson shot wide of target, before Smith's shot was saved as Paul Dickov's men fought valiantly and gave a good account of themselves. Their dominance eventually told in first half stoppage time, as Jones spilt Wabara's cross and Smith tapped home after Croft had cleverly squared the ball to him. As disappointing as falling behind seconds before the interval was, the fact that there wasn't even an immediate response after the restart was doubly disappointing.

Instead of stepping up to the mark and meeting the challenge Oldham posed head on, Liverpool looked lethargic and, crucially, repeated the defensive mistakes that had put them in such a perilous position in the first place. On 47 minutes, Winchester's deep cross found Wabara, who looped a header home at the back post, beating the out of position Robinson and Borini in the air.

Wabara beat Borini and Robinson to the ball and headed home 
Only moments before Borini had wasted a glorious opportunity to equalise, betraying his eminently woeful finishing ability as he somehow missed the target when receiving a low left wing cross from Robinson unmarked in the box. Consequently, it was unsurprising to see him substituted midway through the second period.

The arrival of Steven Gerrard and Stewart Downing swung the momentum back in Liverpool's favour, as Oldham retreated to their own 18-yard line and desperately tried to hang on to the two-goal lead they had established. Gerrard should have scored when Sturridge cut the ball back to him, but Baxter made an excellent block and Sturridge blazed the rebound way over the bar. At the other end, Baxter then shot narrowly wide after yet more loose marking from Coates. 

Eleven minutes from time, Allen's deflected effort from the edge of the box found the bottom right hand corner, giving the travelling Kop some hope of a late recovery to earn an arguably undeserved replay that the Reds would be favourites to win. Unfortunately, though, apart from a thumping strike from Steven Gerrard, which smashed against the cross bar, Liverpool failed to break down the sturdy defensive wall constructed by an Oldham side obviously determined to hold on to their lead for dear life and secure an historic victory.

At the end of the day, Oldham appeared to want the win more than Liverpool. This was demonstrated in their disciplined display, which was sharply contrasted to the Reds' sloppy passing and general lack of commitment. As much as Oldham and neutrals enjoy a Cup upset, it is precisely that for Kopites- upsetting. With little left to play for in terms of trophies, Liverpool must concentrate on fighting for a still relatively feasible fourth placed finish.


Sunday, 20 January 2013

Canaries decimated by superb Liverpool

Liverpool were in impressive form as they swept Norwich City aside at Anfield yesterday, claiming a 5-0 win, their biggest victory under the stewardship of Brendan Rodgers. 44,901 people braved the wintry conditions to watch Henderson, Suarez, Sturridge and Gerrard score four spectacular goals before Ryan Bennett converted past his own keeper to round off a miserable day for the Canaries.

The former Swansea manager's starting line-up contained a few surprises, as Brad Jones stood in for the injured Pepe Reina while Jamie Carragher replaced the rested Martin Skrtel to make his first League start since the Reds' 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge in November.

As it turned out, neither of them had much to do, as the hosts completely and utterly dominated the match from the first to the final whistle, monopolising possession and creating countless chances, five of which where thankfully converted. In fact, Norwich's only real sight of goal came after seven minutes when the unmarked Bennett headed Snodgrass' free kick straight at Jones.

From that point on, it was all Liverpool. The Merseysiders set out in pursuit of goals to confirm and reward their control of the contest, Sturridge forcing Norwich keeper Mark Bunn into a low save after good link-up play with strike partner Suarez. Gerrard then shot wide from 25 yards, before Jordan Henderson opened the scoring with a rare gem.

The ball fell for him on the edge of the box and the ever-improving ex-Sunderland midfielder dispatched a stunning half-volley the flew into the corner of the net to the surprise and delight of the vast majority within Anfield.

Who saw that coming? Henderson enjoys netting a rare goal
It was a simply exquisite strike from Henderson, who has really come on leaps and bounds in recent weeks. The very fact that he even attempted to score that goal demonstrates his increased confidence which, in turn, has spurred him on to continue to improve and challenge the likes of Allen and Shelvey for a permanent place in Liverpool's midfield.

The home side's lead was doubled ten minutes before the interval, as Lucas, Sturridge and Suarez combined to unlock the Canaries' admittedly feeble defence. Sturridge magnificently dummied Lucas' pass, allowing the ball to run through his legs to the onrushing Suarez. The number seven calmly converted past Bunn to continue his awesome goalscoring record versus Delia Smith's side, who must be sick of the sight of Suarez by now.  

After completing the hard work of securing and building on a lead, Liverpool could enjoy themselves during the second half and play some exhibition football to entertain the Kop. It was particularly pleasing to see Henderson and Downing, two players who have been widely derided in the past- with some justification- performing so well. 

On the hour mark, the pair combined in spectacular fashion to set up Sturridge to score on his home debut for the club. Henderson superbly dinked the ball out wide to Downing, whose world-class first time cross put the ball on a plate for Sturridge to ram home from yards out.

Party time! Sturridge celebrates in his unique style
To celebrate becoming the first player to score three goals in his first three games for Liverpool since Ray Kennedy in 1974, Sturridge did a ridiculous dance. He can celebrate as bizarrely as he wants, though, as he long as he keeps on doing what he's paid to do: score goals.

It's not surprising that, as captain Steven Gerrard has returned to form, so have the Reds. He performed brilliantly once again yesterday, hitting 75 passes with an astounding accuracy of 93.3%. Shooting boots dusted off, the 32-year old also found the back of the net with pinpoint accuracy, blasting past Bunn from 25 yards out. 

To put the cherry on top of the cake, substitute Raheem Sterling saw his shot deflected in off Ryan Bennett with 15 minutes left to play. It was the culmination of a satisfying afternoon for Kopites and, respectively, a thoroughly miserable afternoon for the Canaries, who must have been dejected on their long trip through the snow back down south. 

With so many players performing excellently, it's hard to pick out a single man of the match. Suarez and Sturridge appear to be naturally forming an effective relationship up front, while the return of Lucas has helped bring the best out of Steven Gerrard. The displays of Henderson and Downing were the most encouraging for me, though, as both seem to be performing somewhere close to their potential for the first time in a Liverpool shirt, which can only be a good thing heading into some big matches coming up.

Arsenal and Manchester City will represent considerable challenges but the Reds must aim to take at least four points from those games to confirm that they have turned a corner and are finally heading in the right direction: up the table.


Monday, 14 January 2013

Sturridge the bright spark as Utd defeat Reds

Liverpool were left to rue a poor first half performance at Old Trafford yesterday lunchtime as, despite a spirited second half comeback, the Reds fell to a 2-1 defeat to arch-rivals Manchester United. Billed as a contest between the Premier League's two most prolific strikers, Luis Suarez and Robin Van Persie, the latter appeared to come out on top, netting the opener and then setting up the second.

The former, meanwhile, struggled to have an impact on the match and the away side relied more on substitute Daniel Sturridge. He didn't disappoint, scoring an instinctive goal, but couldn't manage to secure a point for Brendan Rodgers' side. Perhaps the game would have panned out differently had the manager been bold and started him up front alongside Suarez and Downing.

Instead, Liverpool looked timid and overawed during a first half that the hosts clearly dominated. Their dominance was rewarded after 19 minutes, as Evra burst down the left and accurately crossed to Van Persie, who slid the ball beyond Reina and into the net.

Van Persie, Evra and Cleverley celebrate the opening goal
Manchester United showed their class for the rest of the first 45 minutes, peppering Pepe Reina's goal with shots. First, Van Persie's shot flew over the bar, before Welbeck's fierce effort went off target and Tom Cleverley's fantastic volley went worryingly close to doubling the Reds Devils' lead. The struggling Joe Allen also nearly cost the visitors a goal, passing straight to Welbeck in a threatening area. Thankfully, Agger was on hand to deny him with a brilliant tackle.

On the stroke of half time, United wasted their best chance to double their lead just before the break. Rafael turned Johnson inside and out in the box and then set up Van Persie, whose inventive back heel appeared destined to find the bottom corner. With the help of his defence, Reina eventually managed to clear the danger, although the Spanish keeper took a heavy blow from Kagawa during the scramble, which required treatment.

At the break, Daniel Sturridge replaced Lucas Leiva, although Allen arguably should have been substituted instead, as his below-par form persisted into the second period, Van Persie blasting a set piece over after Allen had committed a foul in a dangerous area. 

Signs of more attacking intent from Liverpool emerged when Wisdom broke free on the right but screwed well wide of goal. However, United dealt their rivals another blow soon after, Evra's header from Van Persie's free kick brushing the arguably offside Vidic on its way into the net.

Sturridge restored hope for Liverpool straight away, though, with a poacher's finish that will please Kopites. Gerrard's drilled effort- the Reds' first shot in anger- was parried away into the path of the onrushing Sturridge, who neatly tucked home.

Lifeline- Sturridge turns to Suarez after grabbing a goal back
Although it won't win any goal of the month awards, the goal demonstrated the difference Sturridge can make to the side. As a striker, Sturridge possesses the instinctive qualities of a finisher and is willing to gamble on latching onto a rebound and therefore finding the net. Midfielders such as Downing and Sterling lack this clinical streak in the goalmouth area and are therefore comparably ineffective in front of goal. With two goals in two games, Sturridge is already proving his worth to the side. 

Back from injury, fellow forward Fabio Borini went close to levelling when he volleyed just wide of the post after good build-up work by Sturridge. If the Italian can improve on the form he displayed before he suffered a foot injury then Liverpool may finally have some striking options. Rodgers should be on the look out for another striker, nonetheless.

With five minutes left on the clock, Sturridge spurned the opportunity to equalise at Old Trafford and become an instant hero. Suarez bravely rode challenge after challenge in the penalty area before the ball fell to the number 15. Frustratingly, he sent the strike too high and a great chance to level was squandered. 

There was still time for Sturridge to smash into the side-netting but the Reds just couldn't manage to equalise and, but for a decent Reina save, may have lost by a wider margin after Van Persie sent a clever shot goalwards. 

Despite the inevitable disappointment of losing to our major rivals, losing to Manchester United wasn't unexpected considering the respective sides' squad strength and depth. A draw would have been an excellent result, but a narrow defeat isn't the end of the world. Sure, it's a setback, but one from which the Reds should easily recover, starting with victory over Norwich City at Anfield next Saturday. 

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Suarez, Sturridge and Borini were very good!- Aras Rasa Cokelat

Allen is a waste of £15 million. All he does is pass backwards. Poor performance from Lucas, Sterling and Allen. - Gerardo Fabregas 


Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Downing: Keep or sell?

Liverpool fans' love of Kop legend Kenny Dalglish makes him almost immune from criticism. However, although he was harshly sacked and, in hindsight, should have been given another season in charge, it's hard to refute those who criticised the Scot for overspending.

FSG must take some of the blame for allowing him to spend so much as any manager, with the possible exception of trained economist Arsene Wenger, will take all the money he's given. Nevertheless, Dalglish must also bear some responsibility for paying inflated fees for seemingly average footballers.

Stewart Downing was widely believed to be the most woefully average player Dalglish wasted a whopping £20 million on. Bought in to finally solve Liverpool's historic problems on the left wing, many were excited at the arrival of an England international with 27 caps, reasonably believing the expense would be worth it if Downing became a permanent fixture on the left hand side, providing much-needed width and vitality to the Reds' attack.

Unfortunately, in his first season at least, the number 19 disappointingly failed to live up to expectations. Unable to settle at Anfield and generally failing to make the sort of impact on games that was demanded of a major summer signing, Downing's displays lacked the wow factor expected due to his considerable price tag. Although he obviously couldn't control how much the club paid to sign him, that £20 million valuation weighed significantly on him, only reducing his already low confidence further.

Grin and bear it- Downing struggled through his first season
His worrying form was reflected in the statistics. Despite playing in 36 Premier League fixtures, he provided no assists and failed to find the net once. It was a measly return on FSG's sizeable investment. He may have picked up his second League Cup winners medal and been the Reds' man of the match in the Carling Cup final versus Cardiff City, but, week-to-week, Downing simply was't producing the goods.

Consequently, in the summer, new manager Brendan Rodgers informed him that he was free to leave if he could find a new club. After starting versus West Bromich Albion on the opening day of the season, Rodgers left Downing out of his line-up for a significant spell, indicating that Downing had fallen out of favour with the former Swansea manager and seemingly sealing his fate.

With youngsters Raheem Sterling and Suso keeping Downing out of the starting eleven, he even considered moving back to Middlesbrough on loan according to media reports in November. Surprisingly, though ever since then Downing has enjoyed the best form he has had since moving to Merseyside. 

After clinching a Europa League win with a fantastic strike against Anzhi Makhachkala, the 28-year old has steadily improved and began to have a more noticeable impact on matches. Against Fulham, he not only provided an assist, but also netted his first Premier League goal for the club. 

Downing silenced the critics with a goal against Fulham
Although Rodgers' experiment with him at left back backfired- Downing's poor defensive positioning cost us a goal versus Spurs- the winger now looks more at home either side of Luis Suarez, able to cut in from both the right and left in a threatening and purposive manner.

It looks like playing to secure his future at the club has given him a new lease of life and motivation to succeed. Instead of being more conservative and often, therefore, anonymous, Downing seems to be going all out in games to try and make the most of every minute of playing time he's given. Whether that is to attract potential suitors or impress Rodgers enough to change his mind, either way Liverpool benefit.

Ultimately, at this stage it would be unwise to sell Stewart Downing in January unless a significant offer that would reimburse Liverpool's expense on signing him in the first place was put forward. For previous club Aston Villa, his assists increased  from six to nine from his first to his second season, while his goal tally more than doubled. 

The Reds shouldn't sell him after investing so much in him, particularly when he appears to have settled in at the club and be on the cusp of replicating that same improvement at Anfield. Downing should instead be given until the summer to show whether his improved form is a temporary phenomena or a sign of better things to come.


Monday, 7 January 2013

Suarez's hand grabs the headlines as Reds progress

The ever-controversial Luis Suarez was the centre of attention yet again yesterday, as he was embroiled in a scandal regarding the nature of his ultimately decisive goal that knocked non-League side Mansfield Town out of the FA Cup. While all the commentators could agree he handled the ball, the debate continues to rage as to whether it was intentional or unavoidable due to his proximity to Mansfield goalkeeper Alan Marriott.

Liverpool's second goal overshadowed what was a good, old-fashioned cup tie between a giant from the Premier League and a relatively unknown minnow, staged on a poor-quality playing surface befitting the third round of the FA Cup. For all their commendable industry and endeavor, it was clear that the Stags lacked Liverpool's quality and, consequently, went down to a 2-1 defeat. 

Sturridge produces a return on FSG's investment
To the delight of the travelling Kop, debutant Daniel Sturridge, recently signed from Rafael Benitez's Chelsea, made a dream start to his Liverpool career by opening the scoring after only seven minutes had been played. Revelling in his role just off the striker, Shelvey played an incisive through pass to Sturridge, who did the rest in style, calmly tucking home with consummate ease. 

He almost doubled the visitors' lead as well only two minutes later, but Marriott was off his line swiftly to deny him a sensational second. A last ditch tackle from Clements was also required to stop Stewart Downing getting a shot in, as the hosts struggled to cope with their confident and composed opponents.

In fact, seemingly overawed by the magnitude of the occasion, Mansfield never really got going during the first half, their only meaningful effort on goal coming when Jones dived to punch away Green's strike from the edge of the box.

In the ascendancy, Liverpool had one more chance to make their dominance count before the break, Sturridge forcing Marriott into an excellent save with his shot across goal on the stroke of half time. Possibly inspired by the words of manager Paul Cox, Mansfield started the second half as well as Liverpool had begun the first period.

They stuck to their strengths, though, mainly channelling their attacking activities through the long throws of the wonderfully named Exodus Geohaghon and set pieces, rather than attempting to beat the Reds at their own game. Relying on the expertise and experience of captain for the evening Jamie Carragher, the Merseysiders managed to resist the pressure, the number 23 crucially blocking Green's shot and Brad Jones stopping Briscoe's effort from a tight angle. 

On the hour mark, Shelvey's long ball began a lethal counter attack that culminated in Suarez controversially netting what turned out to be the winner. The Uruguyuan's initial effort was saved at close range and, when the ball came back to him, he evidently controlled it with his hand before smashing the ball into the net, seemingly as a sign of his belief that the goal would inevitably be ruled out.
Luis Suarez thinks he's playing basketball!
Surprisingly, though, referee Andre Marriner allowed the goal to stand, provoking justified anger from the home supporters, who were only more incensed when Suarez kissed his hand in celebration. Of course, the fact that Suarez always celebrates in this manner was widely overlooked by the sensationalist media looking for any excuse to slate the number seven.

Although, in my opinion, it was intentional handball as he moved his hand in the direction of the ball, if the referee allows the goal to stand then that's that. No player should be expected to say his goal should be disallowed and it is absurd moralising to suggest Suarez should have done so. Fair play to Mansfield's manager for refusing to label Suarez a cheat after the conclusion of the contest.

There's no doubt that the home side were deflated by the Reds' second strike. It was feasible that the non-League outfit could have gone on to clinch an historic victory if they'd capitalised on their early dominance of the second half and equalised. However, just as they were beginning to build up a head of steam, Liverpool struck in cruel fashion to make Mansfield's task doubly difficult.

To their credit, they didn't give up and, when Green volleyed home with a little help from a deflection off Jones and Coates, Rodgers' men must have been worried at the prospect of a leveller in the final ten minutes. Thankfully, that never materialised and Liverpool held on to avoid a giant killing and progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup, where they will meet Oldham Athletic.

Overall, yesterday's match proved why the FA Cup retains its magic. Fortunately, Liverpool progressed, but the contribution of Mansfield to the contest must not be diminished. They also were fantastic hosts, poignantly putting the names of the 96 who died at Hillsborough on the seats that separated the two sets of supporters.

That was a touch of class that, like this cup tie, will live long in the memory.


Thursday, 3 January 2013

Reds thrash Sunderland to start New Year in style

Liverpool concluded their festive fixtures with a thoroughly satisfying 3-0 win over Sunderland at Anfield. New signing Daniel Sturridge watched on from the stands as his future strike partners Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez bagged the goals that fired the Reds to their third victory in four matches. It could have been more as well, but no Kopites will be complaining after Martin O'Neil's men were comprehensively defeated.

Having recovered from the virus that prevented him frequenting the dugout during the QPR match, Brendan Rodgers started Andre Wisdom in place of the injured Enrique, while Lucas replaced the benched Allen and Jordan Henderson was given another opportunity to impress against his former club.

The first chance of the match fell to Wisdom, who drove the ball over the bar from the edge of the box after Gerrard had set him up, before Sterling and Suarez combined to open the scoring 20 minutes in. The latter's excellent pass over the top of Sunderland's defence set the former through on goal, and he kept his composure to cleverly lob Mignolet.

Lobbed- Sterling breaks the deadlock
Although Sunderland almost produced an instant response, McClean striking inches wide of the far post from inside the box when he really should have scored, Suarez swiftly doubled the Reds' lead. Referee Phil Dowd thankfully played advantage after Cuellar floored himself in the process of fouling Suarez, allowing the Uruguayan to close in on goal and fire confidently past the goalkeeper.

The ever-improving Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson then encouragingly combined to almost make it 3-0 on the half hour mark. Henderson superbly picked out Downing in a dangerous position but the former Villa winger just couldn't connect to turn it home. 

Reina was called into action to thwart Kilgallon from close range with a brilliant reflex save, but apart from that the Black Cats rarely threatened as the home side, who monopolised possession, were comfortably in the supremacy. 

The outcome of the contest was put beyond doubt seven minutes after the restart, as Steven Gerrard lived up to the Kop's much-loved chant about him, sending Suarez through on goal with a world-class 50-yard pass. The number seven did the rest, finishing past Mignolet to net his fifteenth League goal of the season. 

Just can't get enough- Suarez's sensational form continued last night
On 57 minutes, Joe Allen replaced Sterling and for the rest of the match he set about trying to score his first goal for Liverpool. His advanced role seemed to suit his game, as he performed noticeably better than he has previously when deployed in a holding role. 

A heroic block from Rose was required to deny the former Swansea player, before the Welshman struck Johnson's low cross into the side-netting. Both Johnson and Allen also saw goals disallowed for offside, as the hosts relentlessly searched for more goals to make their already convincing victory all the more pleasing.

Daniel Sturridge will be impressed with what he witnessed last night, but may also worry that he'll be unable to dislodge the fantastic Suarez from his seemingly permanent place in the starting line-up. The £12 million man may have to settle for a wide role he evidently prefers not to fulfill. 

Liverpool's clinical first half finishing distinguished this match from other games against lesser opposition at Anfield. They didn't create a host of chances, but the ones they did were clinically dispatched by Sterling and Suarez. This allowed exhibition style football to be played during an entertaining second half of top quality football. 

The Merseysiders mustn't get ahead of themselves, though, as Premier League fixtures versus Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal lie in wait. It's all well and good beating Fulham, QPR and Sunderland, but the real test of this squad's ability to compete at the highest level will come against those teams with the potential to win the title.

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Excellent, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Sturridge is another part of the jigsaw that Brendan Rodgers is trying to put together. Baby steps!- Mark Halfpenny

Great performance. Should have been more with Johnson, Suarez and Allen two chances. If we thrash Mansfield Town, we will head to United in the best form possible! YNWA!- Dean Nemmer