Sunday 23 July 2017

Suarez takes centre stage in accomplished show

Stuart James , at The Hawthorns

He is a magnet to controversy and probably always will be but it is impossible not to admire Luis Suarez's mercurial talent. The Uruguayan took centre stage here in an accomplished Liverpool performance that proved there is life after Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.

With both players missing for a league game for only the eighth time in five years, it was left to two of the six Kenny Dalglish signings in the Liverpool starting line-up to secure a deserved win over a hugely disappointing West Brom team.

Charlie Adam scored the first from the penalty spot, after Suarez tumbled in the area, prompting a furious reaction from the Albion fans, and Andy Carroll grabbed the second before half-time to put clear distance between the two sides.

It was a sobering 90 minutes for West Brom boss Roy Hodgson who looked on with frustration as a team that was almost unrecognisable from the one that he was in charge of before Dalglish replaced him at the start of the year strolled to a comfortable three points.

The penalty incident in the eighth minute provided the first major talking point. Jerome Thomas clearly made contact with Suarez, clumsily tangling with the Liverpool striker, although Lee Mason's handling of the incident was odd to say the least. The referee was perfectly positioned and turned away after deeming that there was no foul, only to stop in his tracks and point to the spot after noticing that Gary Beswick, the assistant referee, who was stood further away, was flagging for a penalty.

Adam, after a lengthy hold up, composed himself before slotting home.

Liverpool, despite the absence of Carragher and Gerrard -- Dalglish confirmed that the latter had picked up an ankle injury in training on Friday that had subsequently become infected -- had already made the brighter start. Suarez could have been in on goal in the opening minute when he ran on to Jose Enrique's long pass but for once the forward's touch deserted him and the chance was squandered. He also sliced high and wide when Martin Skrtel's downward header dropped invitingly for him later in the first half.

Carroll was not so forgiving on the stroke of half-time. Olsson's careless pass presented possession to Liverpool and within the blink of an eye the visitors had doubled their lead with a classic counter-attacking goal. Lucas Leiva superbly picked out Suarez on the right and the ball was quickly transferred to Carroll, who had a clear run on goal. The forward's first touch was far from convincing but his second, with the outside of his left boot, slipped the ball home.

Albion, badly missing the pace and intelligent movement up front that the injured Shane Long normally provides, had looked strangely subdued for the much of the first half. Liverpool, in contrast, carried a threat whenever they broke forward and had two other penalty appeals before half-time. Olsson, who was enduring a bad day at the office, seemed to bundle Carroll over in the six-yard box, and later on in the half Steven Reid, arguably accidentally, blocked a header from the former Newcastle player with his right hand.

Suarez continued to torment Albion after the break. In the space of a few minutes Suarez had a shot superbly blocked by Olsson, attempted an outrageous chip that was just off target and dinked a superb through ball that Carroll could have done better with. The left-foot snap-shot from Carroll that stung Ben Foster's hands in the 70th minute was much more impressive.

Hodgson made three substitutions in the second half, and although Albion briefly rallied, Liverpool had started to ease off, secure in the knowledge that there was no way back for their opponents. Suarez departed to an ovation from the Liverpool fans who might easily have been celebrating a third goal late on when Stewart Downing's shot hit the upright.

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