x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge score in tandem again, while Steven Gerrard scores his 99th Premier League goal from the penalty spot.

Luis Suarez, right, evades the challenge of Crystal Palace's Jason Puncheon. Clive Brunskill / Getty Images
Luis Suarez, right, evades the challenge of Crystal Palace's Jason Puncheon. Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

LIVERPOOL 3

Suarez 13’, Sturridge 17’, Gerrard 38’ (pen)

CRYSTAL PALACE 1

Gayle 77’

English football correspondent

LIVERPOOL // For a player with a history of unorthodox behaviour, there are times when Luis Suarez strays dangerously close to predictability. As the Uruguayan made his first appearance at Anfield since April, it was entirely unsurprising he made a swift return to the scoresheet.

That it only took him 13 minutes was no shock either, partly because Suarez does everything in a hurry and partly because an abject Crystal Palace team looked liable to concede at any point.

At least Suarez raised an eyebrow before kick off, taking his two children on to the pitch with him, meaning that nine-day-old Benjamin, albeit in his father’s arms, must be among the youngest to have graced the Anfield turf.

Then he set to work with his brother in arms, Daniel Sturridge.

Their similarities, their speed, their skill and their direct running, make them especially hard to combat.

They were the twin tormentors of a Crystal Palace side who already look set for a swift return to the Championship but theirs is an alliance with the ability to trouble better defences.

Both were scorers, taking their tally in nine Premier League starts together to 12 goals. Suarez, with seven, has the greater share but both are relishing a partnership that was put on hold when Suarez served a 10-match suspension for biting Branislav Ivanovic.

“They were exceptional,” said manager Brendan Rodgers. “Their combination play was outstanding and they are right up there with the best in this league.”

Suarez, of course, could have been Footballer of the Year but for his various transgressions, and a reminder of his ability came quickly.

He played a complicated one-two with Jose Enrique, the Spaniard cutting the ball back through a crowd of players for the stumbling Suarez to steer a shot past Julian Speroni as he fell.

Enrique was also the provider of the second even if, for a second time, his contribution was overshadowed by the scorer’s. He chipped a pass forward, it flicked off the head of defender Adrian Mariappa and Sturridge jinked past Damien Delaney before unleashing a ferocious shot from an acute angle.

“We took our goals well,” Rodgers said. “In the final third, we were very good.”

And in their defensive third, Palace were poor. Their third goal was sadly shambolic. For Ian Holloway, it was a refereeing error. For others, it was a failure of geography.

When Raheem Sterling accelerated on to Suarez’s chipped pass, Dean Moxey assumed he was outside the box and tugged the winger back. Instead, referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the penalty spot and Steven Gerrard converted for his 99th Premier League goal.

Liverpool should have scored more. Sturridge struck the post; Victor Moses had already hit the bar, the former Palace man contriving to miss an open goal by kneeing Enrique’s cross on to the upright. It was an act of generosity towards his old employers.

They had shown Liverpool enough largesse in an open goal. There was a shared commitment to attack with manager Holloway, who had felt Palace were too defensive in recent games, opting for boldness in selection.

It backfired.

Cameron Jerome glanced a header wide, Mamadou Sakho almost sliced a cross into his own net and Jimmy Kebe had an effort cleared off the line by Kolo Toure, Palace left themselves more open and the fault-lines in a squad lacking in Premier League quality were exposed in a chastening opening period.

“We have got to take some solace from the second-half performance,” Holloway said. It brought a pyrrhic victory as they won the second 45 minutes.

They got a consolation goal when two substitutes combined, Dwight Gayle heading in Jose Campana’s free kick.

The scorer has made an 18-month journey from non-league football to Premier League. It is a heart-warming tale but the harsh realities of the Premier League promise a crueller end for Palace in the story of their season.

It left the visiting fans looking for positives on a grim afternoon.

“We out-sang the Kop,” they sang. In everything else, however, they were very much second best.

sports@thenational.ae

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