Own goals reign at Anfield but Suarez not the instigator
Published 20/02/2012 | 05:00
After a season where Liverpool have been accused of a prolific series of own goals, it made a welcome change for Kenny Dalglish to see his club benefit from the frequent gaffes of others.
Brighton found their own net three times as they were emphatically dismantled at Anfield, and yet amid the chaos of their self-destruction, they still couldn't prevent Luis Suarez having the last word, or indeed having to issue another apology to his team-mates.
The latest moment of contrition, it must be stressed, was of a far more trivial and temporary nature as he tamely struck a late penalty at visiting goalkeeper Peter Brezovan. It didn't matter. Liverpool were already well ahead and planning a home quarter-final with Stoke.
It was the only thing Suarez and his manager got wrong this weekend, Dalglish leaping off the bench to display seven digits (identifying the striker's shirt) to ensure the South American took the 81st-minute spot-kick. Dalglish accepted the flak for that too.
The choreography went wrong, but in keeping with the afternoon was also swiftly remedied.
Four minutes after his miss, the striker made amends by heading home Liverpool's sixth. First the mistake, then the redemption -- it's becoming a recurring Anfield theme.
This was a cameo of the twin imposters of accusation and adulation Suarez must deal with as he seeks to restore his reputation in English football. Isolated one minute, idolised the next, Anfield remains his sanctuary from the gaze of the detractors who'd like to deport him for his recent crimes against PR and agitated sponsors. The dismantling of the Championship side wasn't all his work.
Brighton's luckless midfielder Liam Bridcutt scored two own goals before Lewis Dunk somehow eclipsed his team-mate by juggling Liverpool's fifth into The Kop end. The visibly more confident Andy Carroll (right) and Martin Skrtel did the rest, but it was Suarez who made the stadium sing.
Regardless of what his apologists claim, he does have a lot to prove. This was the beginning of the process. He needs to show the warts identified in his on-field persona are worth tolerating because the beauty marks he also leaves on each performance are so beguiling.
Suarez has a multiple personality that needs to be controlled if it is to be accepted. There are moments he looks languid, others when he is flailing his arms in frustration and others when he claims for non-existent fouls or handballs. Then the ball falls at his feet and he is just marvellous. The Brighton fans jeered him as every opposing fan will, but each boo surely carried its sense of foreboding as his trickery threatened a goal with every attack.
Aside from those howls of derision, there was very little to justify any malingering persecution complex on behalf of the Liverpool striker given Brighton's manager, Gus Poyet, is probably the only man outside of Anfield to offer any support for his fellow countryman.
Never mind handshakes, there were embraces between the two compatriots prior to kick-off. Poyet even admitted he was happy to see Suarez score as it made no difference to the outcome.
The same applied to the Liverpool supporters. A Uruguayan flag was destined to be hoisted above Anfield whatever the outcome given Puyot's animated presence. The Brighton boss was at his most excitable when Kazenga Lua Lua claimed the consolation of goal of the game when equalising Skrtel's header on 17 minutes.
A free-kick from 25 yards was nudged to him by Alan Navarro, and he let rip with an unstoppable blast past Pepe Reina, momentarily threatening a repeat of Brighton's win here 29 years ago.
Such thoughts lasted until 44 minutes, when Bridcutt's nightmare began. Sam Vokes' clearance from Glen Johnson's goalbound header rebounded in off his team-mate, and Liverpool were rampant from therein. Carroll rattled in the third after a Downing cross. Bridcutt then nudged a Steven Gerrard shot into his own net and Dunk nominated himself for a comedy award with the third own goal before Suarez had the last word.
Wembley is on the immediate horizon for Dalglish but for a second successive weekend, it was all about Suarez. He heads to the home of English football next weekend -- a place where he still not feel entirely welcome.
Should he shine as much on that stage as he did in this encounter, fears of him being forced to make an early exit from England will appear greatly exaggerated. (© Daily Telegraph, London)