Luis Suarez scored on his debut as Liverpool concluded a turbulent few days with a valuable 2-0 victory over Stoke.
The Uruguay striker slotted home the Reds’ second goal of the game in front of the Kop to ensure Fernando Torres’ £50 million (Dh297.5m) move to Chelsea was no longer the major talking point.
And if questions were being asked about how the Reds would cope in their former striker’s absence then efforts by Suarez and Raul Meireles, the Portugal midfielder, — with his third goal in four matches — provided a swift answer.
Andy Carroll’s introduction to the crowd before kick-off was the closest he is likely to get to the pitch for a month as he recovers from a thigh injury.
Unfortunately for Liverpool this was exactly the sort of game from which they would have benefited from the powerhouse striker.
Conversely, it did not seem that suited his fellow new arrival, although arriving as a second-half substitute with his side already ahead made the task much easier.
Suarez’s appearance off the bench to jog down the touchline brought a standing ovation from the Kop, who as a result almost missed Asmir Begovic’s brilliant reaction save to keep out Glen Johnson’s close-range header.
But then Steven Gerrard’s low, driven free kick deflected off Marc Wilson on the end of the wall to Sotirios Kyrgiakos 12 yards out and although Robert Huth nicked the ball off the defender, Meireles was on hand to smash home left-footed.
Just after the hour Suarez got his chance to start repaying his £22.8m transfer fee — a club record for a few hours on Monday.
His goal came when Dirk Kuyt’s through-ball sent the forward racing through and having gone round Begovic he rolled the ball goalwards. For a few seconds it appeared Andy Wilkinson would cut out the shot but his desperate clearance came back off the post and bounced over the line.
Elsewhere, a 77th minute Craig Gardner penalty earned Birmingham a 2-2 draw at home to Manchester City. Carlos Tevez put City ahead on four minutes. Nikola Zigic poked in an equaliser on 23 minutes. The visitors pulled ahead again in the second-half when Aleksandar Kolarov curled in a stunning free-kick.
West Ham moved off the bottom of the table with a 3-1 win against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road. Victor Obinna followed up his hat-trick at the weekend with a brace. Robbie Keane also scored on his West Ham debut. Charlie Adam scored for Blackpool.
It turned out to be a very good day for debutants as Daniel Sturridge, on loan from Chelsea, scored an injury-time winner in Bolton’s 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Damian Duff’s 67th minute effort was all that separated Fulham and Newcastle United, while Tottenham beat Blackburn Rovers through a solitary Peter Crouch goal.