Saturday 25 January 2020

Suarez offers reminder of his brilliance

The notoriety of Luis Suarez has spread far and wide. Paul McCartney even mentioned him during a concert in Montevideo earlier this month. But for once last night, we saw the Uruguayan less as the sinister provocateur and more as the inspirational forward, as he completed his sumptuous hat-trick against Norwich with a perfectly-weighted 50-yard strike that silenced Carrow Road.

With a contender for goal of the season, Suarez dispossessed Elliot Ward and unleashed a remarkable chip from just inside Norwich's half, watching exultantly as the ball sailed over the back-pedalling John Ruddy. Suarez's season might have been horribly disfigured by controversy, but on this occasion there was no disputing his luminous qualities with a football. His two first-half goals had each been beautiful to behold, before his 83rd-minute wonder-strike rounded off a remarkable individual performance.

Steven Gerrad, not unknown to scoring spectacular goals himself, led the plaudits. "I was just about to give him a mouthful, but I ended up clapping him," he said.

"He's a top player, one of the best in the world on his day and today was his day. He misses chances but he keeps going. It's [next week's FA Cup final] on our minds. It's a really big game to look forward to but we have got a game against Fulham first."

The worry for Liverpool, who remained eighth in the Premier League after this win, is how far adrift of the business end of the table they would be should Suarez leave this summer.

They produced plenty of neat attacks yesterday, through Stewart Downing in particular, yet Suarez was the only player who could muster the consistent threat of a goal. So many breaks did the 25-year-old make that he ought to have left Norfolk with four goals, perhaps more.

Vitriol had rained down upon Suarez all evening from Norwich fans who continued to define him by his eight-match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra. But it was he who had the final word with a majestic display to fill Liverpool with hope ahead of that FA Cup final against Chelsea next Saturday.

Andy Carroll, Suarez's strike partner, had been left at home for this game for precautionary treatment on a groin injury, but he was scarcely needed. All three of Suarez's strikes here were luscious. For his first he was teed up by Gerrard, who plundered the ball from David Fox in a flash before threading a wonderful pass, and rifled a rising shot emphatically beyond Ruddy.

The second was arguably even better as he beat Ward on the right, muscled forward and eventually dispatched an inch-perfect, exquisitely-weighted low shot beyond the reach of the hapless Norwich goalkeeper.

Suarez's movement tormented the Norwich centre-backs, and it was scant surprise when pressure from Ward forced the striker to fall over in the box.

Paul Lambert's players were resorting to faintly desperate tactics, as Jonny Howson proved with a cynical trip on Gerrard. Just possibly, their remarkable progress over the past year had induced the first trace of end-of-season complacency at Carrow Road.

At least Pepe Reina was roused into action in the second half, as the Spaniard superbly tipped wide a sharp 25-drive from Ryan Bennett. Still, though, the attacking waves were largely red in colour.

A surging Downing picked out Suarez, whose shot was deflected straight to Shelvey, fashioning a header that cannoned off the bar. Shelvey's reflexes were a little less impressive moments later, as he contrived to miss the most enticing cross from Jose Enrique with the goal gaping.

Despite Liverpool's clear superiority, a positive spirit pervaded among the home fans. "You're coat's too big for you," they chanted at substitute Wes Hoolahan, who proceeded to toss his oversized jacket into the crowd.

Suarez, however, appeared to change the mood with his extraordinary late contribution. Thanks to his memorable long-range effort, the only refrain one could hear by the final whistle was the sound of the Liverpool contingent singing his name.


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