Suarez scores treble as Reds cruise
Luis Suarez scored the fourth hat-trick of his Liverpool career as West Brom were blown away by the brilliant South American as the Reds eased to a 4-1 victory at Anfield.
Having had to play catch-up with strike partner Daniel Sturridge in the goalscoring stakes as a result of his 10-match suspension carried over from last season, the Uruguayan is definitely back to full speed.
Shortly after the 26-year-old scored a superb first as early as the 12th minute Reds owner John Henry, watching from his home in America, tweeted "Luis. Magician."
It was difficult to argue with that assessment after seeing Suarez ghost past two West Brom players to slot home.
By the end of the game there were plenty of more superlatives to use - and that was not even taking into account a superb overhead kick with 10 minutes to go which crashed against the bar.
All this against a side with the third-best defensive away record in the league having conceded just two.
Suarez's second and third goals both came from headers, one almost from the edge of the penalty area, to make it 36 goals in his last 46 matches and 57 in 101 Liverpool appearances overall.
That is exactly why Henry was so unequivocal in his hard-line stance over the summer when he refused to countenance a sale even after a B#40,000,001 bid from Arsenal and complaints from the player about the club reneging on a deal to allow him to join a Champions League club.
Even when substitute James Morrison converted from the spot to reduce the deficit Sturridge ensured the afternoon ended on a high note with a delightful 20-yard chip.
Initially it appeared the day may have been one of controversy for Suarez as his ninth-minute fall in the area after tussling with Billy Jones resulted in West Brom captain Jonas Olsson remonstrating with the Uruguayan.
It is unlikely that provided any additional motivation for Suarez but within minutes the Baggies' Swedish centre-back found himself a mere bystander as he was left trailing in the wake of the striker's brilliance.
Suarez picked up the ball in the inside-right channel and skipped past Claudio Yacob before nutmegging Olsson so perfectly the defender was still turning round as the forward Suarez beat Boaz Myhill with an angled shot.
If that goal was a product of the South American's nifty footwork his second was more instinctive.
Having laid off the ball to Aly Cissokho he continued his run to meet the on-loan Valencia defender's first-time cross with a bullet header from at least 16 yards out.
As he raced away to celebrate even Suarez, not renowned for his aerial prowess, looked slightly surprised that he had scored with his head from that distance.
Liverpool should have had the result wrapped up from a well-worked Suarez free-kick to Gerrard in the inside-right channel but when the captain cut the ball back from the byline Martin Skrtel completely fluffed his shot from close range.
Yacob, not having the best of games in midfield, then fouled Sturridge - for once being completely overshadowed by his strike partner but Suarez's free-kick went just wide.
Jordan Henderson, whose movement and powerful running in behind strikers made a mockery of Sir Alex Ferguson's bizarre criticism of his gait, almost made it three when he curled a shot over after Lucas Leiva, Suarez and Gerrard had combined on the edge of a congested penalty area.
West Brom's first real chance came in added time before the interval when Youssouf Mulumbu's ball over the top picked out former Liverpool striker Nicolas Anelka who knocked past the advancing Simon Mignolet only for Skrtel to hack into the Kop before the ball crossed the line.
That would have given the visitors hope and what they needed to do was come out all guns blazing for the second half.
They failed on that count and soon found themselves out of the game.
Sturridge bent a free-kick just off target and Suarez had a shot deflected behind before the Uruguayan completed his hat-trick.
Gerrard swung in a free-kick from the left and the striker jumped to flick a head and divert the ball into the far corner.
Sturridge, who must have already resigned himself to playing second-fiddle, crashed a shot against the bar but the damage had already been done.
Even a spot-kick with 25 minutes to go, converted by Morrison after Cissokho had been adjudged by the assistant referee to have fouled Jones, could not alter the outcome as Sturridge's inch-perfect chip restored the three-goal cushion.