GUARDIAN – Liverpool 3-0 Sunderland | Premier League match report

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 £12m capture of Daniel Sturridge was followed by an emphatic defeat of Sunderland at Anfield.As has been the case since the summer window closed amid turmoil and with increased responsibility upon him, Luis Suárez produced another devastating display, aided and abetted throughout by Steven Gerrard. Martin O’Neill’s team had no response. Suárez struck twice to take his Premier League tally for the season to 15. Another pertinent statistic was the 493rd league display for Liverpool of Jamie Carragher, who moved ahead of the legendary Billy Liddell into outright second on the club’s all-time appearance list.Sturridge was present in the directors’ box at Anfield having completed a £12m move from Chelsea earlier on Wednesday; not in time to be registered for the visit of O’Neill’s side but, having relied on Suárez to carry the burden in attack almost single-handedly this season, better late than never as far as Rodgers was concerned. The Liverpool manager will soon have Fabio Borini back from an ankle injury but was missing the hamstrung José Enrique against Sunderland, prompting a recall for Andre Wisdom at right back and a switch to the left for Glen Johnson.Suárez, predictably enough, was the pivotal figure as Liverpool established a comfortable first-half lead and the Uruguay international showed Sturridge the levels that he alone has set in Rodgers’ attack this term. Sunderland were a threat throughout the first half, and this was far from the stroll that was Liverpool’s previous home game against Fulham, but the contrast in the finishing was vast. With visiting defenders also guilty of switching off at key moments, the invention, strength and precision of Suárez was sufficient to make Sunderland suffer.Sunderland had tested the Liverpool defence from several set-pieces, and Stewart Downing’s 25-yard free-kick had forced a fine save from Simon Mignolet, when Suárez 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 Suárez 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 of the dozing Danny Rose and Matt Kilgallon with a perfectly weighted overhead kick. Sterling steadied himself then sent a delicate lob over the advancing Sunderland goalkeeper, his first goal since the winner against Reading in October and a fine way to mark his recently-signed Liverpool contract.Anfield celebrations should have been cut short three minutes later when Stéphane Sessègnon and Steven Fletcher combined to release James McClean inside the Liverpool area. McClean dragged his shot well wide of José Reina’s left-hand post and was given further cause to rue the miss when Suárez doubled Liverpool’s lead moments later.Again Gerrard was involved, winning a challenge and releasing play down the right, and again the Sunderland defence was found wanting as Carlos Cuéllar failed to dislodge Suárez with a shoulder charge or clear when the ball fell briefly at his feet. Cuéllar 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 Suárez advanced into the area. With Mignolet in his sights, the striker swept the ball home with the outside of his right foot and Liverpool were in command. It was Suárez’s fourth goal in five matches against Sunderland.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.Sunderland have not won at Anfield since October 1983 and with Jordan Henderson impressing against his former club, Gerrard picking off passes unchallenged and Suárez dominant, not to mention the visitors’ own profligacy, there was no prospect of the drought ending here. The second half was more one-sided than the first and Sterling could have added a third when Gerrard and Suárez again combined to send him through on Mignolet’s goal. This time the 18-year-old clipped his finish wide of the far post.The telepathy between Liverpool’s captain and leading goalscorer soon inflicted further punishment on the men from Wearside, 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 Suárez, who controlled with his chest and prodded a simple finish beyond the badly-exposed Mignolet to follow up his two goals against Queens Park Rangers on Sunday with another brace.Glen Johnson and Joe Allen were both denied goals late on by close but correct offside calls, the latter losing out on his first goal for the club as a consequence.Premier LeagueLiverpoolSunderlandAndy Hunterguardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds