Suarez's fab four gets Reds in groove
Liverpool 5 Norwich City 1
There are some evenings at Anfield when a footballer is granted a standing ovation, and others when only gasps of approval are sufficient.
Luis Suarez's performance last night ought to have seen him carried off the pitch in a sedan chair – and that was just at half-time.
The Uruguayan scored four goals with a display that, even by his own imperious recent standards, underlined his status as a peer of the world greats.
No Liverpool player had recorded three hat-tricks against the same team, likewise no one in the Premier League, but Norwich found themselves on the wrong side of that landmark. This quadruple also took Suarez's personal tally to 13 in his last eight games since his return from suspension.
Mere statistics underplay the quality of the strikes, however, at least two of which were goal-of-the-season contenders. The other two, including a trademark 25-yard free-kick, seemed merely routine in their magnificence.
"I think he is the happiest he has been here," said a delighted Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers after the game. "He flies all around the world but I think this club suits him perfectly and I still think his best years are going to be here.
"The profile of the club, the connection with the supporters, you can see it is a hand-in-glove fit for him."
Suarez must harbour a deep grudge against the Norfolk side. Perhaps he once choked on a Delia Smith mince pie, but even Chris Hughton could not have anticipated the brutality of the Uruguayan.
There are instances in a football stadium where there is a momentary silence, as if 40,000 spectators are pausing to ask themselves, "did that just happen?" So it was when Suarez let rip from just inside the Norwich half on 15 minutes, John Ruddy waving at thin air while the Kop inhaled at the sheer audacity of the attempt.
Suarez scored from a similar distance at Carrow Road a couple of years ago. When there were calls for his deportation after his numerous indiscretions, Ruddy must have been the one leading the shouts.
The stadium was still humming when Suarez volleyed his second 14 minutes later, a more conventional strike for him, from six yards after Steven Gerrard flicked on Philippe Coutinho's corner. His third was the equal of the first as he controlled, chipped the ball over Leroy Fer on the edge of the box and then volleyed for the 34-minute hat-trick. It is safe to say whatever flirtation Suarez was guilty of last summer, in that moment all was forgiven.
This stadium has seen its fair share of memorable individual performances, but this will stand alongside side them all.
It cannot be ignored that he appears to be on a higher plane to most of his team-mates. That is not a criticism of them (not all of them, in any case), because he is different class to every visitor to Anfield, too.
Some mocked at claims he may become the best Liverpool player there has been – or would be if he remained at the club – but the evidence is mounting.
If Liverpool do fail to reach the top four and he has to leave, this extra season must have secured him an earnest send-off because he can do no more to reclaim this club's Champions League status.
Liverpool were actually toiling a little before his first, a couple of snapshots from Jordan Henderson their earliest threat, but the momentum shifted with the striker's intervention. They may be having problems on the road, but the flat-track bullying at Anfield has been mightily impressive.
Now in a comfort zone and banishing the horrors of Hull, Gerrard's header was cleared off the line by Ryan Bennett on 52 minutes, and Raheem Sterling ought to have played in Suarez for a fourth on 56 minutes. Norwich were in damage-limitation mode, but Suarez would not be denied, a trademark free-kick from 25 yards sending the crowd into more raptures, before Bradley Johnson headed an 83rd-minute consolation and Sterling hit number five on 88 minutes.
The Kop bowed in appreciation of Suarez as he went off in injury-time. (© Daily Telegraph, London)