Tuesday 20 February 2018

Red-hot Suarez has power to eclipse Gods at Anfield

Liverpool 3 Cardiff City 1

Luis Suarez added to his Premier League goal haul against Cardiff on Saturday
Luis Suarez added to his Premier League goal haul against Cardiff on Saturday
Malky Mackay congratulates Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers after the game at Anfield. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Chris Bascombe

First Luis Suarez earned the contract, now he is working on earning a statue near The Shankly Gates.

Even a club with as distinguished a history as Liverpool's has never experienced anything like this, the Uruguayan claiming his 19th league goal of the season in 12 appearances as Brendan Rodgers' side moved top with victory over Cardiff.

Suarez is accumulating at a faster rate than Dixie Dean when he struck his seemingly unbeatable 60 goals for Everton. He is making the likes of Ian Rush, Roger Hunt and Robbie Fowler appear like they were occasional marksmen.

You imagine it can't last, as if Suarez is caught in some sort of freak storm where every Anfield appearance yields a couple of goals as routine.

Cynics say his contract was signed to make it easier for him to leave in the summer, not tougher. Time will tell, but there's no reason to dispute Suarez's claim he intends to remain on Merseyside for a 'very long time' even if that must be conditional on the club restoring its Champions League place and competing for titles. If that proves the case, only injury can stop him rewriting club records and prompting weekly 'who was the greatest?' debates.

Suarez became the first Liverpool player to score at least twice in five consecutive home games. We will need to recruit a modern-day Norris McWhirter to research the match reports soon.

The first eminently gettable target is Alan Shearer's Premier League record of 34 league goals.

"He will certainly push it close," said Rodgers. "He looks like he can score a hat-trick in every game, doesn't he?"

Visitors to Anfield have become little more than walk-on guests in the Suarez extravaganza. You half expect the magician to start producing doves from his sleeve after each goal. It is not a question of whether he will score, or even how many, but what kind of goal it will be?

For the record, you can add close-range volley and swerving right-footer from 20 yards to the collection here. They were Liverpool's first and third of a fixture which, like many others recently, was won after 45 minutes.

The woodwork and unselfishness prevented the hat-trick, Suarez choosing to pass to Raheem Sterling for Liverpool's second when he had only Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall to beat.

It is the manner of those strikes that is so beguiling. When Rodgers was asked to name his favourite, he had to pause 17 seconds to think (he opted for the 40-yarder against Norwich three weeks ago).

This is a coach who 18 months ago was tasked with ending what had become a goal drought, but now boasts a two-goals-per-game average which has not been matched since Liverpool's formation in 1892.

Rodgers tried to emphasise Liverpool's return to the top was based on a team performance rather than an individual, but you can't look beyond Suarez as the catalyst.

He is inspiring those around him. In the first minute Jordan Henderson did not flinch when sprinting into a 50-50 tackle. Two years ago Henderson looked like a startled bunny. He is unrecognisable from that player.

Joe Allen, rather like Philippe Coutinho, is ensuring Liverpool play a more attractive, high-tempo passing game.

TOUGHEST

Liverpool's defence will face its toughest examination at Manchester City on St Stephen's Day, the second-half header by Jordan Mutch ensuring the host's search for a clean sheet on their own turf continues. Cardiff, for all the turmoil surrounding their manager and owner Vincent Tan, acquitted themselves well.

"We came up against one of the best players in the world who was unbelievable for 20 minutes," said Malky Mackay.

You don't have to walk far around Anfield to find a club legend staring at you. There are murals all over the place of the icons, the majority of them from the 60s, 70s and 80s. There is an occasional modern, overseas great, a Hyypia and Alonso, for example, but they have supporting roles, in the background while Yeats, Hughes, Thompson and Souness rightly take centre stage.

In Steven Gerrard, Liverpool found someone who could sit comfortably alongside the Gods, and in Suarez they have a player who has the capacity to achieve the previously unthinkable. Eclipse them all.

"Enjoy him while he is here," has been the guarded call, as if this season was prolonged farewell before the inevitable summer exit.

"There is a real feel-good factor," said Rodgers.

"They know they are going to see a real, world-class operator and also seeing a lot of young players who are developing to a really high level. We are on the right path."

Wherever he plays, Suarez is heading for greatness. He is dragging Liverpool with him and it is thrilling to watch. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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