There has always been something of the revivalist preacher about Brendan Rodgers and it seemed tonight that his future might just work.
Report by UK Independent
Daniel Sturridge, the striker on whom the Liverpool manager has invested £12 million, was looking down from the directors’ box.
Luis Suarez’s argument to be Footballer of the Year was looking irresistible and there was one fabulous passing move that involved Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson, men whom Anfield imagined were beyond redemption.
As the teams trotted out for the second half, the Tannoys played a song by a Manchester band whose lead singer is a fervent United supporter. The choice of The Stone Roses seemed less important than the lyrics to I am the Resurrection.
The view that Sturridge had would have been better than Demba Ba’s at Stamford Bridge. His arrival was supposed to ease the pressure on Suarez, although it may just have pushed him to fresh heights.
“I was talking with Harry Redknapp after our game at Loftus Road and he said Suarez was a Messi-type character,” Rodgers remarked. “When I gave him a break at the start of the season he didn’t want it. He is a player that has to play two or three times a week to be on top of his game – one game a week is no good to him.”
Liverpool have taken nine points from their holiday programme; sweeping aside Fulham, Sunderland and Queen’s Park Rangers, who looked a shadow of the side that overcame Chelsea last night. However, in between, was the debacle at Stoke that showed the other side of Rodgers’ Liverpool.
For Sunderland, this might have been a humbling evening rather than just a forgettable one. Liverpool had two second-half strikes from Suso and Joe Allen ruled out for offside while Simon Mignolet twisted acrobatically to deny Steven viciously deflected shot.
Searching for an adjective to describe his new club, Sturridge called it “humongous” which The Independent once described as “one of the ugliest words ever to slither into our dictionaries”.
Suarez has been the subject of every kind of adjective, from the deeply offensive to the glittering. However, with every game that passes there has been less of the flaws and more of the genius. Both the goals that gashed open Sunderland’s defence before half time were brilliantly conceived.
The first came from a delicious chip from Suarez that caught the Sunderland back four horribly square and sent through Raheem Sterling. Mignolet sprinted from his line and challenged the teenager to chip him, which seemed at the time to be a lethal risk. He responded with a beautifully-measured effort that the Anfield Road End recognised was a goal from the moment it left his boot.
Then came the moment of the match, the time when the Uruguayan did not take or even look for the foul but remained on his feet and scored. When Carlos Cuellar barged into him, the linesman signalled furiously but Suarez stayed upright, the Spaniard slipped and referee Phil Dowd impeccably allowed the advantage. The result was a measured shot that swept through Mignolet’s legs and into the net.
Seven minutes after the interval, came the kind of incisive long pass that is Gerrard’s trademark but which has been strangely absent this season. It found Suarez, who was marked but not nearly tightly enough to prevent his 18th goal of the season – one more than he scored last season.
Those who had followed Sunderland through the years would have known long before the result was already settled. They had not won at Anfield since 1983 under a manager, Alan Durban, whose most famous observation was: “if you want entertainment, go to the circus”.
The level of entertainment on Wearside has often been pitiful this season but, lately, there have been signs – even here – that a corner might have been turned.
Last night Sunderland squandered several opportunities to score before they completely lost control of the evening.
James McClean almost walked through the Liverpool defence, Seb Larsson shot too tamely and a goalmouth scramble forced a fine, reaction save from Pepe Reina, whose abilities have been the subject of increasing questioning on Merseyside.
When Reina saved, Martin O’Neill punched the air with impotent fury. This was an encounter between two Ulster managers and the man from Kilrea knew he was being badly beaten by the boy from sweet Carnloch Bay.