LIVERPOOL // The marriage of the ridiculous and the sublime is not always the happiest of unions, but Liverpool had few complaints. One goal was farcical, one fantastic but they were equally valuable as Kenny Dalglish's side responded to back-to-back league defeats by procuring three points.
With Everton and Manchester United next on the fixture list, it arrested the slide. Instead, courtesy of Roger Johnson's own goal and Luis Suarez's superlative strike, they could savour an encouraging afternoon.
For the majority at Anfield, it was all the more enjoyable when they discovered that their former idol, Fernando Torres, had been dismissed for Chelsea against Swansea City.
Forgiveness can be in short supply for the January deserter but the schadenfreude is unnecessary. Suarez continues to indicate Liverpool got the better of their New Year business and if Andy Carroll, the more expensive and less inspirational of the new-look strike force, remains rooted on three goals, his was a promising performance. Suarez's was simply superb.
"He's been outstanding since he came to the football club," Dalglish said. "We are very fortunate to have him and we look forward to many more happy days."
Across Stanley Park resides a striker long known as King Louis. Liverpool have their own answer to Everton's Saha, King Luis. Suarez's fourth goal of the campaign had a regal quality.
While Christophe Berra appealed in vain for offside, the Uruguayan accelerated on to Jose Enrique's long pass. Then came the proof of class. Rather than shooting straight away, he allowed Berra to catch him, turning the hapless defender this way and that before rifling a low shot past Wayne Hennessey.
That doubled Liverpool's advantage as a comparatively uneventful first half nevertheless produced two goals.
Wolverhampton Wanderers were the first to threaten. Errors have pockmarked Jamie Carragher's game this season. The consolation for the defender was that the latest went unpunished. An under-hit back pass was intercepted by David Edwards, but Jamie O'Hara's subsequent shot resulted in a simple save for Jose Reina.
While one captain's mishap produced only mild discomfort, the other's error resulted in Liverpool taking the lead.
After darting infield, Charlie Adam's crisply struck shot was headed for the advertising hoardings wide of Hennessey's goal. Until, that is, Johnson opted for the spectacular and produced the strange. His flying, diving header diverted the ball inside the far post and left his goalkeeper stranded.
Martin Kelly's initial cross brought the controversy.
"I thought Roger Johnson was fouled," said Mick McCarthy, the Wolves manager.
"I thought Carroll barged into him and I was annoyed."
It was part of an influential, if imperfect, display from Carroll. A couple of enticing crosses almost brought goals for colleagues, but a fourth for the club continues to elude him. He headed against the woodwork and, in injury time, attempted to stroll around opponents rather than simply shooting and sealing victory. Nevertheless, if Dalglish seemed to select him more on faith than merit, the £35 million (Dh198.7m) man had an impact.
"Everything except the goal," said the Scot, in his analysis of his record buy's display. "We couldn't get much more out of the big fellow today."
Adding a target man made a difference for Wolves, too. McCarthy had configured his side in a 4-5-1 formation.
Once their initial aim, damage limitation, had failed, he brought on a second striker and Steven Fletcher soon halved the deficit, finishing adeptly from Stephen Hunt's cut-back for their first goal in four league games.
It also resulted in a more open game which, in turn, should have produced more Liverpool goals. Hennessey denied Suarez a second, executing a magnificent point-blank block to make amends for his own error. "An unbelievable save," Dalglish said.
Proof of his ability and agility was supplied again when Adam released an increasingly rampant Stewart Downing. He surged forward and shot, Hennessey advancing and extending himself to tip his effort wide. "He is excellent and he's had a good performance." McCarthy said of his keeper.
In between, Carroll had struck the far post, with Downing the supplier, and, after his introduction for a first Anfield appearance since March, Steven Gerrard threatened in a tantalising cameo, a trademark shot whizzing wide.
Forceful going forward and, at times, frail at the back, their goals came from embarrassment and excellence.
If Liverpool's first is likely to end up on a DVD of unfortunate own goals, the second is destined for the shortlist for the club's strike of the year. Unless, that is, Suarez contrives to deliver something even better.
@ For more on ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE, visit thenational.ae/topics