Partnership back in tandem during Reds win at Sunderland
Brendan Rodgers believes Luis Suarez has rekindled his love affair with Liverpool FC – as he hailed the Uruguayan’s strike partnership with Daniel Sturridge as the best in the Premier League.
Suarez scored his first goals since returning from his 10-game suspension by netting in each half as Rodgers’ side secured a deserved 3-1 win at managerless Sunderland yesterday.
Daniel Sturridge had put Liverpool ahead with a controversial opener on 28 minutes, with Emanuele Giaccherini giving the home side shortly after half-time.
The victory – Liverpool’s 400th of the Premier League era – moved the Anfield outfit up to second place, two points adrift of Arsenal.
And Rodgers insists Suarez’s performance proves that after a summer of transfer speculation the Uruguayan is fully committed to the cause.
“He is someone who loves football and I knew how much it was hurting for him not to be playing,” said the Northern Irishman.
“But he wanted to stay, he wanted to work – he did lots of extra sessions, finishing sessions and conditioning sessions.
“He hasn't been cocooned out of the way and then come into football. When he was not working in training, I gave him the opportunity to go back to Uruguay for a bit.
“He's not fazed by much. He has a remarkable mentality – his determination and the steel in his mind-set is phenomenal. He is just so focused.
“For us, he is like a new signing coming back into the team. It's great for the team and the supporters.
“Our supporters deserve to see someone of that quality and his talent deserves to be out on the field rather than sat in the stands. That's something we're working very hard to make sure happens this season.”
Having made his return to action in the Capital One Cup defeat at Manchester United in midweek, this was Suarez’s first Premier League appearance since biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic on April 21.
Sturridge – who now has seven goals for the season and 11 in his last 11 outings – was provider for both Suarez’s goals.
And while praising the partnership, Rodgers is confident the strike duo’s understanding can only improve over time.
“I'm not sure there's two better in the league, in all honesty,” said the Liverpool manager.
“We've changed the structure of our team a bit to allow us to pass it better – we've still got a lot of work to do – but also to fit in with the type of players that we have.
“Those two will only get better; you see the understanding. We have done a lot of work with them together in training.”
The result keeps Sunderland, who had caretaker manager Kevin Ball in charge following last weekend’s sacking of Paolo di Canio, bottom of the table.
Of the game, Rodgers added: “I’m delighted with the result. To come away and perform in parts of the game that we have done today is very pleasing.
“Kevin had a reaction from team, they had focus and intensity. We had to be alert, defended well and looked threatening on counter. It was a very good victory for us.”
Sunderland were unhappy with Sturridge’s opener after the striker inadvertently converted Steven Gerrard’s corner with his right arm.
However, the England man defended his actions and said: “It's a great ball from Stevie, it's gone over the defender's head and it was last minute, I've obviously tried to head it but I guess my heading's not good enough.
“The ball's just gone in off my arm but I wouldn't do that on purpose. Sometimes these things happen.”
Rodgers said: “He needs to work on his heading! I don’t think he meant to (handle the ball), it missed his head, hit arm and went in.
“Watch it again, not one Sunderland player reacted to it being handball.”
Lucas Leiva picked up his fifth booking of the season yesterday and will now be suspended for Saturday’s Premier League visit of Crystal Palace.