Liverpool climbed to eighth in the Premier League table as recent recruit Daniel Sturridge watched his new team beat Sunderland 3-0 thanks to a goal from Rahim Sterling and two from Luis Suarez.
The win marked just Liverpool’s second back-to-back victory of the season against a Sunderland side missing key players in the form of Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Lee Cattermole.
Liverpool teenager Andre Wisdom, filling in for the injured Jose Enrique, fired an early warning shot over Simon Mignolet’s bar but the first clear cut chance fell to Stewart Downing, the winger forcing Mignolet into a smart save low to his left direct from the free-kick.
Five minutes later, Liverpool were ahead. Sterling latched onto Suarez’s pinpoint pass and the winger calmly lobbed the ball over the advancing Mignolet for only his second goal of the season.
Moments later and Sunderland should have been level. Fletcher played in James McClean but Pepe Reina did well to close the shooting angle and his shot drifted just wide of the left post.
Liverpool continued to enjoy the lion’s share of possession and it was no surprise to see them go two goals clear from their most likely source. Carlos Cuellar dallied too long on the ball and Suarez nicked it off him before bearing down on Mignolet’s goal and firing his low shot past the keeper for his fourth in five meetings against Martin O’Neil’s side and his 14th of the season.
Still Sunderland had chances to get on the score sheet in the opening half. Adam Johnson lifted a well weighted ball to the far post for Matthew Kilgallon who saw his shot well saved by Reina. In hindsight, squaring the ball to Steven Fletcher may well have been the better option.
Liverpool began the second half in the same attacking vein they finished the first, again Sterling and Suarez at the heart of the action. Another lovely touch from the Uruguayan played in Sterling but the finish could not match the set-up and his shot drifted harmlessly wide.
Sterling did not have long to dwell upon his miss as two minutes later, Liverpool were 3-0 up. A superb pass from Gerrard set Suarez in the clear and he beat Mignolet with a low finish under his body.
The match safe, Brendan Rodgers rang the changes. On came Joe Allen for Sterling and Suso for Jordan Henderson. But the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for the returning Jamie Carragher for an amazing 493rd appearance.
Sunderland had Mignolet to thank for not going even further behind, first denying Johnson with a reflex save before denying Suarez his hat-trick with an outstretched leg. Substitute Allen fired just wide before having the ball in the net but his first Liverpool goal was erased with an offside flag.
Sunderland stay 14th despite their defeat as Everton came back from 1-0 down to beat Newcastle.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Luis Suarez – Liverpool: Scored two and set up the other with yet another fine performance.
Liverpool: Reina 6, Wisdom 6, Johnson 6, Agger 6, Skrtel 6, Gerrard 7, Henderson 6, Lucas 6, Downing 6, Sterling 7, Suarez 8. Subs: Carragher 6, Allen 7, Suso 6.
Sunderland: Mignolet 6; Gardner 5, Cuellar 5, Kilgallon 6, Rose 6; Johnson 6, Larsson 6, Colback 6, McClean 6; Sessegnon 5; Fletcher. Subs: Campbell 6, McFadden 6, Vaughan 6.