Suarez the flawed genius puts on a superb show

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The Independent Online

There has always been something of the revivalist preacher about Brendan Rodgers and it seemed last night that his future might just work.

Daniel Sturridge, the striker on whom the Liverpool manager has just invested £12m, was looking down from the directors' box. Luis Suarez's argument to be the footballer of the year was looking irresistible and there was one fabulous passing move that involved Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson, men whom Anfield imagined were beyond redemption.

As the teams trotted on for the second half, the Tannoys played a song by a Manchester band whose lead singer is a fervent United supporter. The choice of The Stone Roses seemed less important than the lyrics to 'I am the Resurrection'.

For Sunderland, this might have been an utterly humbling evening rather than just an awful one. Liverpool had second-half strikes from Suso and Joe Allen ruled out for offside while the Sunderland keeper, Simon Mignolet, twisted acrobatically to deny Steven Gerrard's viciously deflected shot.

Three of Liverpool's last four results have seen them score 10 without reply, justifying Rodgers' constant call to believe. In between was the 3-1 debacle at Stoke that demonstrated the other side of Rodgers' Liverpool.

Searching for an adjective for his new club, Sturridge called it "humongous" which this newspaper once described as "one of the ugliest words ever to slither into our dictionaries". Suarez has been the subject of every kind of adjective, from the deeply offensive to the glittering. However, with every game that passes, he has shown less of the flaws and more of his genius.

Both goals that gashed open Sunderland's defence before half-time were brilliantly conceived. The first came from delicious chip from Suarez that caught the Sunderland defence horribly square and sent through Raheem Sterling.

Mignolet sprinted from his line and challenged the teenager to chip him, which seemed at the time to be a serious risk. Sterling made a beautifully measured effort that the Anfield Road End recognised was a goal from the moment it left his boot.

Then came the moment of the match, the time when the Uruguayan did not even look for the foul, but remained on his feet and scored.

When Carlos Cuellar barged into him, the linesman signalled furiously for a foul but Suarez stayed upright, the Spaniard slipped and Phil Dowd impeccably allowed the advantage. The result was a measured shot that swept into the net.

Eight minutes after the interval came the kind of incisive long pass that is Gerrard's trademark but which has been absent this season. It found Suarez, who was marked but not nearly tightly enough to prevent his 18th goal of the season.

Those who had followed Sunderland through the years would have known long before that the result was already settled. The last time they won at Anfield, in 1983, it was under a manager, Alan Durban, whose most famous observation was: "If you want entertainment, go to the circus".

The level of entertainment on offer on Wearside has often been pitiful this season but, lately, there have been signs - even here - that a corner might have been turned.

Last night Sunderland squandered several opportunities to score before they completely lost control of the evening. James McClean almost walked through the Liverpool defence, Seb Larsson shot too tamely and Steven Fletcher forced a fine, reaction save from Pepe Reina, whose abilities have been the subject of increasing questioning on Merseyside.

When Reina saved, Martin O'Neill punched the air with an impotent fury. This was an encounter between two Ulster managers and the man from Kilrea knew he was being badly beaten by the boy from sweet Carnloch Bay.