Liverpool vs. Sunderland: 6 Things We Learned
Liverpool started the new year as they ended the old as a second successive 3-0 win was achieved with the minimum of fuss at Anfield.
Sunderland were simply swept aside by a rampant Reds side that never looked back from the moment Raheem Sterling lofted them in front from a fine Luis Suarez pass, with Suarez benefiting from referee Phil Dowd’s decision to let the play flow to make it 2-0 before the break.
Suarez got on the end of a sublime Steven Gerrard through ball to add a third in the second half, and although Brendan Rodgers could have seen his team score even more goals as he returned to the touchline following the illness that saw him miss the 3-0 win over Queens Park Rangers, in the end he and his side had to settle for just three.
Here’s what we learned from the Anfield action:
Daniel Sturridge makes an instant impact
The signing of Daniel Sturridge was announced by Liverpool earlier in the day, with the arrival of the sometime England forward increasing competition for places in the two forward positions either side of Suarez.
Simply put, Liverpool have to get more goals from these positions if they are to make any form of progress in 2013, and Sterling responded with a superbly composed finish that belied his 18 years for Liverpool’s opening goal.
In the short term he might find himself more out of the team than in following the arrival of Sturridge, but Sterling’s goalscoring impact will be welcomed by all at the club.
Jordan Henderson has a Liverpool Future
One of the lesser-discussed qualities of a Rodgers team is the ability to press and close teams down when they haven’t got the ball, and Jordan Henderson is arguably the best Liverpool midfielder at doing just that.
He performed admirably at QPR on Sunday despite feeling unwell, and against his former club Sunderland, Henderson was a bundle of energy, closing down the opposition and looking to win the ball back for the home side at every opportunity.
The midfielder was given a rousing reception by both sets of fans when he was replaced by Suso midway through the second half, and it was applause that he certainly deserved ahead of a few weeks that could define his Liverpool career.
Survive this transfer window and he could be here to stay.
Luis Suarez can’t be knocked down
Following the well-publicised incident against Stoke in October, and then the belly flop in front of David Moyes later that same month, Suarez simply hasn’t lived up to the diving reputation that many people would like to say he has.
He stayed on his feet when Carlos Cuellar looked to take him out in the first half and was rewarded by referee Phil Dowd with the chance to go on and fire home Liverpool’s second, which, of course, he did.
It was the latest in a long line of incidents, which shows that his reputation might just be a thing of the past.
Sometimes the "Hollywood Ball" works
Steven Gerrard has often been criticised for playing too many long passes that can end up looking quite messy, but having the attitude and confidence to try them means that he will misplace them now and again.
In the 52nd minute the Reds captain played one of his best, as his superb, cutting, raking pass simply bisected the Sunderland defence and sent Suarez away to score his second and all but secure the three points for Liverpool.
The captain has played every minute of every game for Liverpool in the Premier League this season, and his influence is there for all to see.
Andre Wisdom shows intelligence
It was Andre Wisdom’s first league appearance since the 3-0 win over Wigan in mid-November, but you wouldn’t have known it given the way that he slotted in perfectly.
That Wigan appearance was a seventh in a row for the teenager, and although he has suffered somewhat from the excellent form of Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique since that game, he showed a maturity to slot back in with the minimum of fuss against the Mackems.
He might be needed a bit more in the new year too.
Strength in depth
Liverpool’s squad has looked thinner than London Fashion Week this season, but the arrival of Sturridge might just have changed all that.
Against Sunderland the Reds suddenly looked better from the bench too, with both Suso and Joe Allen threatening to add to the goalscoring tally going forward and Jamie Carragher slotting in well at the back.
A strong bench used to be a hallmark of Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool, and maybe the Reds are just starting to get back to that under Rodgers.