Luis Suarez demonstrated why Liverpool were so determined to keep hold of him during the summer in a masterful performance yesterday.
Smashing his record of not managing to score against West Bromwich Albion, Suarez banged three past the Baggies to not only claim the match ball, but also put the Reds firmly on the path to a well-deserved win and second place in the Premier League table, two points behind table-toppers Arsenal. Daniel Sturridge joined in the fun later on, magnificently chipping the ball over the keeper and into the net from the edge of the area to allay any anxiety that may have existed after Morrison pulled one back for the visitors from a controversial spot kick.
|Suarez smiles for a photo with the match ball|
Suarez was on the offence from the go, dragging a shot wide of the far post six minutes in. We then saw both the good and the bad of the number seven soon after, as he first went down far too easily in the penalty area in an unsuccessful attempt to win a penalty and then opened the scoring with a sublime show of individual talent.
Picking the ball up deep, the Uruguayan immensely bypassed three West Brom defenders with embarrassing ease and then fired low past Myhill and into the bottom corner. He was at it again only five minutes later, somehow managing to find the top corner with a header from 18 yards out after Cissokho’s powerful centre found Suarez, more by chance than design.
Playing in the most advanced of the central midfield positions behind the stunning SAS, Henderson pressed the West Brom defence persistently, safe in the knowledge that Lucas Leiva, who returned to the line-up following the birth of his second child, was there behind him to keep guard of the defence. His efforts were almost rewarded with an impressive goal five minutes before the break but his curling strike towards the top right hand corner went narrowly over the bar.
At the other end, the only real chance Steve Clarke’s men created came on the stroke of half time when ex-Red Nicolas Anelka nipped between Skrtel and Mignolet and prodded goalwards, but thankfully our clean shaven number 37 recovered in time to make a clearance that denied the Baggies a goal that would have brought them back into the contest and made the second period far less comfortable for the dominant hosts.
Man of the moment Luis Suarez, meanwhile, was still searching for his hat-trick, terrorising Albion’s backline in the process. Ten minutes before the interval he hit a free kick just wide of the post and it wasn’t until ten minutes after the restart that he found what he was looking for. Latching onto Gerrard’s perfect set piece delivery, Suarez glanced a header into the net at the Kop end to score his- and Liverpool’s- third goal, ensuring three points would be added to Liverpool’s account at the end of the 90 minutes.
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Sturridge then blazed against the bar as the Merseysiders threatened to run riot, but the Baggies were controversially rewarded a penalty midway through the second period to temporarily rain on the Reds’ parade. Billy Jones went down under Lucas' tackle in the penalty area and, although referee Jonathan Moss allowed play to proceed, he changed his mind when his assistant flagged for a penalty. From the spot, Morrison scored what turned out to be a consolation for West Brom, although at the time a swift second goal from the visitors would have been a serious cause for concern.
As it turned out, Kopites had no reason to worry, as Sturridge dispelled all concerns with a goal that brought a smile to the face of every Red. Twenty yards from goal, the in-form England international unexpectedly sent a stupendous chip over Myhill and into the back of the net.
|Sturridge celebrates in his traditional manner|
It was an unbelievably good goal from Sturridge, but not enough to steal the limelight from Suarez, who left the field to a standing ovation a minute from time as he was replaced by Luis Alberto. Before then he had cheekily tried to add a fourth to his total with an improvised overhead kick, but Myhill did well to push the acrobatic attempt onto the crossbar.
Considering West Brom’s form going into the match yesterday- they were unbeaten in five and had won at Old Trafford- and their recent record in this fixture- the Baggies had won their last three League matches versus Liverpool- this was a really pleasing victory. Liverpool were imperiously good from the first to the final whistle, dominating in a fashion not seen since the dizzying heights of Rafael Benitez’s era at Anfield.
With Suarez and Sturridge firing on all cylinders, both individually and as a partnership, this was the perfect preparation for Liverpool’s most difficult task of the season; next week’s visit to the Emirates Stadium. If the Reds replicate this display they’ll have every chance of securing a win that will send an emphatic message to the rest of the Premier League.