Superb Suarez inspires Liverpool's flying start
Liverpool 3 Bolton Wanderers 1: Uruguayan's trickery helps lift resurgent Reds to best start in 17 years
Sunday 28 August 2011
On the day that Liverpool's owner, John W Henry, defended his club's expensive summer outlay on British talent in a newspaper interview, Kenny Dalglish's team added their own eloquent argument.
This 3-1 success featured first Anfield goals for two of those newcomers, Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam, sandwiching a Martin Skrtel header, and moreover, ensured that the Merseyside club ended the day on top of the table, ahead of Chelsea and Wolves on goal difference.
When Liverpool beat Bolton on New Year's Day there were only 35,400 fans at Anfield for a 2-1 win secured by an injury-time Joe Cole goal in the last home game of Roy Hodgson's unhappy reign. This was another victory but the manner and the mood could not have been more different as Liverpool's passing and movement left Bolton chasing shadows for much of the 90 minutes. With it Liverpool – with seven points from a possible nine – have achieved their best start since winning three in a row in 1994-95. That year they ended up fourth; a repeat would be welcome after two seasons without Champions' League football, though this flying start will have some Anfield optimists dreaming of more. Dalglish, though, merely observed: "It's better than being bottom."
Liverpool had not lost a home League game to Bolton since 1954 and that record never looked under threat. Even the visitors' first corner almost produced a Liverpool goal as Stewart Downing raced clear on a counter only to be foiled by Paul Robinson's block.
It was Luis Suarez who proved the biggest thorn in Bolton's side. Writing in yesterday's Liverpool Echo, former Anfield favourite Tommy Smith likened him to Kevin Keegan for his exceptional movement though it was a more recent Kop hero, Robbie Fowler, whom the Uruguayan was looking to emulate by becoming the first Liverpool player since the Toxteth tearaway in 1994 to score in his opening three League games.
He did not manage that but from the start Suarez asked questions with that movement – not to mention his eye for a pass and trickery in tight spaces – and it was after drifting out wide that he helped create the opening goal. From the left flank Suarez played a lovely ball with the outside of his right boot into the path of Downing in the Bolton box and although Jussi Jaaskelainen was equal to his volley, Bolton's reprieve was brief. Dirk Kuyt turned the loose ball back to Henderson and after his first shot was blocked, he duly arced a left-foot shot into the far corner.
Suarez missed a golden chance to double the lead after 24 minutes when lobbing on to the roof of the net after being put clear by Henderson. Then another move begun on the left by the South American ended with Kuyt firing over. Both managers were forced into early substitutions but it had no effect on the flow of traffic.
Suarez was unfortunate not to earn a penalty at the start of the second half as he tumbled in the box under a Zat Knight challenge – the defender using a hand to stop him as he threatened to wriggle clear – but as it was, Liverpool secured the points with two goals in a minute soon after.
"We shot ourselves in the foot," was Owen Coyle's verdict on Bolton's defending for both. Skrtel got ahead of Knight to power in a header from Adam's corner, then the Scottish midfielder got the third himself after holding off a Nigel Reo-Coker challenge before drilling a low shot through the legs of Knight and beyond Jaaskelainen from the edge of the box. Adam, like Henderson, is now up and running in a red shirt.
Yet Dalglish was quick to praise two players not on the scoresheet. "It is always nice to score your first goal but Stewart Downing never scored and was brilliant and Luis Suarez was man of the match."
Pepe Reina had made only one first-half save from a Martin Petrov volley when he was beaten by Ivan Klasnic's consolation strike in the last minute, a close-range finish after Jamie Carragher had inadvertently teed him up when halting Petrov's advance. The Croatian, not Suarez, has a goal from each of his three League outings but it is the Uruguayan's Liverpool sitting pretty this morning.
Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Kelly (Skrtel, 30), Carragher, Agger, Enrique; Henderson (Rodriguez, 76), Lucas, Adam, Downing; Kuyt, Suarez (Carroll, 76).
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson; Eagles (Tuncay, 56), Muamba (M Davies, 26), Reo-Coker, Petrov; Klasnic, K Davies (Pratley, 71).
Referee Lee Probert
Man of the match Suarez (Liverpool)
Match rating 8/10
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