The footballer so many love to hate, nasty Suárez, “racist” Suárez, mad-dog Suárez, call him what you like (and the sanctimonious tendency among football fans need no undue persuasion) showed a soft and squishy side to his nature after his comeback goal on Sunday, the first of a brace which helped resurgent Liverpool dispatch rock-bottom Sunderland. After tapping the ball into the Wearsiders’ net to make the score 2-0 to the Reds, Luis Suárez raised his Liverpool top to reveal an undershirt with the legend “Welcome Benja” inscribed thereon; a warm “Hello, son” to his new baby boy, born last Thursday.
It’s a heart-warming tale, but nevertheless many will maintain the set of their lips in a thin, disapproving line. Bad boy Luis has been a sinner many times since his entrance into English football, but it’s also the case that he’s provided many illuminating moments of skill amounting to genius. The more tolerant in the football family might find it in their forgiving natures to concede that the balance is marginally on the credit side of the ledger. Though his sins are like scarlet, or at least like a Liverpool red, yet shall they be as white as snow. Or so the Good Book sort of says.
It was the striking partner of Suárez who came closest to “sinner” status at the Stadium of Light, the ball flying in for Liverpool’s opener, not as intended off Daniel Sturridge’s head, but rather off the top of his arm. It was deemed an accidental contact, the goal stood and Liverpool were on their way to a victory that became less comfortable the longer the match went on. Sturridge it was who provided the cross for the second goal, darting into a half yard of space near the goal-line to spear a low cross which Suárez, Johnny-on-the-spot, buried with ease. Sunderland had contributed plenty of effort to the first half, playing a high pressing game, and the two incisions which saw them behind at the interval were perhaps slightly rough justice.
In the second half, Sunderland’s hard work continued and eventually earned them a glimmer of hope when ex-Black Cat Simon Mignolet in the Liverpool goal could only parry a stinging shot from outside the area. Emanuele Giaccherini snapped up the resulting rebound chance with glee and Sunderland were back in business. The home side were reinvigorated by the breakthrough, as tends to be the case and a new purpose showed in their attacking play. Liverpool were pressed back for a spell and endured their most worrying period of the match, until a swift break saw Sturridge in space on the left, enabling him to pull the ball back from the byline for that man Suárez to apply a deadly finish and wrap the proceedings up at 3-1.
Of the main title contenders, it’s been a good weekend for Arsenal and Liverpool, not so good for Spurs and Chelsea and pretty disastrous for Manchester City. Unbeaten Everton still lurk around unbeaten, threatening to gatecrash the elite pack. It promises to be a tight race for the honours at the top of the Premier League – and Liverpool, with Suárez ebullient, seem determined to have a big say right to the end, just as in the old days. For managerless Sunderland, rooted to the top-flight basement with just one solitary point to show for the season so far, the future looks a whole lot bleaker.