The first league win of Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool tenure was delivered by Luis Suarez. For all of Rodgers' tactical teaching, Suarez remains the difference-maker for Liverpool, scoring three and making one in a 5-2 evisceration of Norwich City.
Everything that is compelling about Suarez was on show on Saturday. The imagination about how to score a goal, the technical excellence to execute, those narrow turns that only he can do, the capacity to make full-time professional defenders look like rushed-in pub team substitutes.
Suarez set up a goal for Nuri Sahin and could have had even more himself. Rodgers knows that whatever he does at Liverpool over the next few seasons, Suarez will be at the heart of it.
"Luis is a complete footballer," said Rodgers. "He's not just a No 9 who stands up there and waits for the ball, and is a box player. He has more tactical understanding of the game, he is clever in his technique, he moves well in and around defenders."
There is a thrill to Suarez, but there is also a cost. He now has a reputation for going down easily, which is difficult to shake. Referees are too aware of this. Leon Barnett, in one ugly move, elbowed and tripped Suarez from behind in the box. It was the most obvious penalty of the season, but Mike Jones, the referee, did not give it.
"He's a special player, a wonderful player with great enthusiasm for the game," said Rodgers of the striker he believes to be more sinned against than sinning. "He doesn't get the rub of the green from officials, there's absolutely no question. Everyone today would have seen that. But we don't complain, we keep working and keep playing like that, and we'll be all right."
Rodgers admitted that there is now a "fear" that Suarez's reputation means he will never get the penalties he deserves. Other strikers go down more easily and are still rewarded with penalties. "I could tell you about three or four strikers who go down in the box with very minimal contact, and all of them have had penalties this year," said Rodgers.
"I can't worry too much about it. It's something that hopefully the referees, when they analyse and assess their own performance, they have a look at it."
Suarez, like any natural footballer, revels in having similarly gifted players around him. Former Real Madrid midfielder Sahin played in the hole, directing Liverpool's moves, setting up one for Suarez and scoring one himself. Rodgers said that his settling in was only a matter of time.
"He was a player that I felt would fit into our style and our way of working once he got up to speed," Rodgers said. "He's got those natural leadership qualities. He's a good guy. He can tactically participate in the game, so he understands how we're trying to work and how we're trying to play. He's a real good guy who has settled in well and hopefully he continues in the form that he's in."
Norwich: RUDDY 5/10; MARTIN 4; TURNER 4; BARNETT 3; GARRIDO 4; SNODGRASS 5; HOWSON 5; B JOHNSON 5; SURMAN 4; JACKSON 6; MORISON 6
Liverpool: REINA 5; G JOHNSON 7; AGGER 7; SKRTEL 6; WISDOM 6; ALLEN 7; GERRARD 7; SUSO 7; SAHIN 8; STERLING 7; SUAREZ 9
Goals. Norwich: Morison 61, Holt 87. Liverpool: Suarez 2, 38, 57, Sahin 47, Gerrard 68. Substitutions: Nor Holt 6 (Jackson, 45), Hoolahan 6 (Surman, 56), Tettey (Morison, 79). Liv Assaidi 6 (Suso, 59), Henderson 6 (Sahin, 66), Carragher (G Johnson, 74). Booked: Nor Barnett. Man of the match Suarez. Match rating 8/10. Poss: Nor 33%, Liv 67%. Attempts on target: Nor 4, Liv 6. Referee M Jones (Yorkshire) Attendance 26,831.Reuse content