x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Liverpool's Luis Suarez has the last laugh

Luis Suarez scored his first league goal since the start of October to earn Liverpool the win over Queens Park Rangers and help ease some of the worry over charges of improper conduct from the English Football Association.

Luis Suarez pushed aside the issues of the past few days by scoring for Liverpool against Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, his first goal in the league since October.
Luis Suarez pushed aside the issues of the past few days by scoring for Liverpool against Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, his first goal in the league since October.

LIVERPOOL // Even by Luis Suarez's standards, this has been an exceptional week.

Monday involved an alleged obscene gesture at Fulham fans, bringing him an improper conduct charge from the English Football Association.

Thursday produced a DVD, compiled by Kenny Dalglish, to highlight the decisions that have gone against Liverpool, Suarez in particular, this season.

And Saturday, belatedly, brought a reminder of his footballing talent.

Suarez's first league goal since the start of October earned Liverpool victory over Queens Park Rangers, remarkably their first triumph on their own turf in the best part of three months. If it is too simplistic to say that when Suarez scores, Liverpool win, the two often go hand in hand.

Much as controversy dogs him, he pesters defenders. Some strikers prefer anonymity, surfacing only to shoot. Suarez, in contrast, is an irrepressible constant, forever involved.

Skill and spikiness are married with pace and persistence. He had five attempts on goal in the first half alone.

None went in, but he resumed his bombardment after the break and duly delivered the winner.

It is a reason why his chance conversion rate can seem the lowest of the major strikers and why this score line suggested a narrow win, not the rout it could easily have been. There will be few more one-sided 1-0 victories.

"One is enough when the others don't get an opportunity," rationalised Dalglish. "Maybe the goals tally was less than we deserved but some of the football we played in the first half was brilliant."

Stewart Downing was especially influential, serving as the creator to an attack that benefited from the omission of Andy Carroll. They were more mobile, more involved and should have been more prolific.

But there was a litany of near-misses from Suarez; a cross-shot that beat Radek Cerny at his near post without crossing the line, a header directed straight at the goalkeeper, an effort poked wide.

Twice in quick succession, he could have scored, but Cerny parried a lob and the rebound was lifted into the Anfield Road End.

The breakthrough belatedly came when Charlie Adam, wearing No 26 and celebrating his 26th birthday, crossed and Suarez, left unmarked, headed in.

"He scored with a header, which doesn't happen very often and played really well," said Dalglish.

Aware of his striker's capacity to make the news, he added: "There will be nice headlines for him."

For once, the beaten manager joined in the eulogy.

"Luis Suarez was magnificent and it was appropriate the best player on the pitch scored," said Neil Warnock. "We lost him, but that is what good players do."

Yet if it was all too predictable that Suarez would have a starring role, another to excel was more unexpected. Cerny is QPR's third-choice goalkeeper.

"He was fantastic," added Warnock. "He's 37, a top professional and thought he'd never play another game in the Premier League but he's played three times and he has been faultless."

Liverpool can testify to that. It has been a feature of recent games at Anfield that the visiting goalkeeper has flourished. Here, at least, it did not cost them, but Maxi Rodriguez might have had a hat-trick but for the Czech.

While plenty of efforts went off-target, he was only beaten twice: by Suarez and his own winger Shaun Wright-Phillips, who struck his own bar. It was the nearest the visitors came to a shot on target, but the closest Liverpool came to doubling their lead.