Brendan Rodgers paid tribute to the “phenomenal” mental strength of Luis Suarez after the Uruguayan forward marked his return to the Premier League following a 10-game suspension for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic with two goals that took Liverpool up to second place in the table.
Suarez scored in each half in his first Premier League game for five months to give Liverpool a 3-1 victory and Rodgers likened the return to a new signing. “He has a remarkable mentality,” the Liverpool manager said. “His determination and the steel in his mind-set is phenomenal.
“He is so focused and for us it is like a new signing, coming back into the team. It is terrific for the team and the support. His talent deserves to be out there and not in the stands. We are working very hard to make sure that happens this season.
“He hasn’t been cocooned away out of the way and just come back into football,” Rodgers added. “I gave him the opportunity to go to Uruguay for a bit but he is someone who loves football.
“I knew how much it would hurt him. He wanted to stay and he wanted to work. He has had finishing sessions and conditioning sessions. He wanted to be up to speed.
“It would be very hard for anyone to say he wasn’t very, very good [against Sunderland]. It is a great credit to him and our conditioning team. Luis has worked very hard and long may it continue. The second one was a hard finish. It was from behind him and bobbling and he guided it.”
Daniel Sturridge scored Liverpool’s other goal and Rodgers now believes he has potentially the best strike partnership in the country. “I’m not sure there are two better than them in the league,” he added. “There are some wonderful partnership, like [Robin] Van Persie and [Wayne] Rooney who are outstanding. Now we have changed the structure of the team to allow us to pass it better.
“They are up there with the very best. Steve Gerrard makes a breathtaking pass, under pressure for the second [goal] and then the touch, pace and power gets [Sturridge] in and he rolls the ball [to Suarez to score]. Them two will only get better with their understanding. We have done a lot of work with them.
“They looked very bright, they are two different types. One has pace and power and two good feet and the other is a wriggler and can shift his body very quickly and be [dangerous] in the box. The dynamics are very good. They have worked a lot in training. They have struck up a very good partnership.
“All Daniel needed was an opportunity. The only way he felt he could make an impact was through goals. He can play and move and go behind, he understands I will allow his talent to flourish, but it is for the team. You only have to see how hard he works. He is an outstanding footballer. When he’s on his game he is phenomenal. England are very fortunate to have someone of that quality.
“Today was always going to be physically demanding and the work we put in was exceptional. To get the three goals... maybe we could have got a few more. We were really dangerous on the counter-attack. Our goals were very good. We have lots of goals in the team this season.”
Sturridge added: “It was very difficult in the second half. I think we took our foot off the pedal a little bit and once they scored the goal, it got a little bit difficult for us but in the end we defended well and we got a late goal which killed it off.
“Luis gives me angles to play in and for me it’s about getting assists as well as scoring. It’s about the team winning games. If someone’s in a better position, you put them in and allow them to score the goal. It’s great to have Luis back. He gives us options and he’s one of the best forwards in the league. We form a good partnership.”