Liverpool 3-1 Cardiff City
Luis Suarez celebrated his new deal with a first-half double to help Liverpool move to the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 win over Cardiff City at Anfield on Saturday.
Raheem Sterling was also on target for the Reds in a dominant display by Brendan Rodgers' team in the first 45 minutes.
Jordon Mutch clawed a goal back for the Bluebirds in the 58th minute as Cardiff manager Malky Mackay oversaw a much-improved performance in the second period.
The pre-match build-up had centred on Mackay's future at the club after his relationship with owner Vincent Tan broke down.
Mackay was applauded off the field by Cardiff and Liverpool supporters in a show of solidarity with the manager.
Suarez sounded an early warning to Cardiff when he struck the side-netting with an acrobatic effort in the opening moments.
Great pace from Sterling offered another chance for Suarez inside the area, but his effort was blocked by the Cardiff defence.
The Welsh side were not without threat themselves, and Mutch was wasteful when he fired first time with enough time to move forward from a misplaced Mamadou Sakho pass.
And a swift counter-attack from the Bluebirds freed Craig Noone, who forced Simon Mignolet into a great 15th-minute save before Mutch again spurned an opportunity when he headed wide from the subsequent corner.
Suarez was again on the attack three minutes later when his shot from the edge of the area was deflected away from danger and another Cardiff block denied Sterling's drive.
In the 25th minute, Suarez broke the deadlock for Liverpool.
The South American played the ball to Joe Allen on the edge of the Cardiff area, and he sent it out to Jordan Henderson at the angle of the box.
The midfielder clipped a cross into the Cardiff box where Suarez was on hand to volley home for the Reds.
Cardiff defender Steven Caulker was looking for a penalty when he appeared to be held by Martin Skrtel as they challenged for a free-kick into the Liverpool box.
Philippe Coutinho almost hit a second for Liverpool in the 33rd minute when he evaded Gary Medel before hitting the post from an acute angle.
Skrtel went close moments later when he headed a Jon Flanagan cross into the area just over the crossbar.
Flanagan was unlucky not to grab a second when David Marshall kept out his effort on the line, but goal-line technology proved the ball did not cross.
Three minutes before half-time, Sterling doubled the lead when Suarez raced on to a great ball from Henderson before finding the youngster unmarked in the area to slot home.
Suarez grabbed his second on the stroke of half-time with a curling strike after a terrific back heel into his path by Henderson.
Liverpool continued in the ascendancy after the interval with Coutinho going close.
A raft of substitutions were made in the 55th minute with Kim Bo-Kyung and Fraizer Campbell coming on for Peter Odemwingie and Medel.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers also swapped Flanagan for Martin Kelly.
The switches had an immediate effect for Cardiff when Mutch cushioned a header beyond Mignolet from a Peter Whittingham free-kick into the box.
Another set-piece almost saw Cardiff pull another goal back when Mutch was again able to rise and head wide from a Whittingham corner in the 62nd minute.
Cardiff defender Ben Turner forced a good save from Mignolet on 66 minutes with a header which threatened to loop over the Liverpool goalkeeper.
This was a much-improved response by Mackay's team in the second period after what could have been his last half-time team talk to the players.
Turner was required at the other end to deflect a Suarez drive wide as the Uruguayan reminded the visitors of his threat.
Sterling received a yellow card in the 71st minute for a late challenge on Whittingham.
However, Sterling almost added his second when he raced clear in the 76th minute, but Marshall did well to deny the winger before Suarez hit the post with the loose ball.
Andreas Cornelius was sent on in the 80th minute for Aron Gunnarsson as Mackay chased a second goal to give Cardiff belief they could take a point.
Rodgers sensed the danger and sent Daniel Agger on for Coutinho in a bid to thwart the aerial threat of Cardiff.
The Bluebirds went close again when Caulker headed just wide from a great ball into the area by Noone.
Marshall denied Suarez a hat-trick with a great save low to his left after the Liverpool striker burst into the penalty box with two minutes left.
Luis Suarez: A
It's becoming difficult to put into words what Suarez means to Liverpool.
Quite simply another imperious display for the Reds, despite not threatening as often against an improved Cardiff in the second period.
Jordan Henderson: A
Another tremendous display in the first period from the Liverpool midfielder, who has hit a rich vein of form for the Reds.
Involved in the creation of two Liverpool goals and always looking for an opportunity in the second period.
Gary Medel: B-
The Chile international never really found his feet in the first period of the match.
Usually a ball-winning midfielder for Cardiff, Medel found the centre of the field dominated by his Liverpool counterparts.
He was substituted in the 55th minute for Frazier Campbell as Mackay chased a way back into the game.
The Cardiff fans are yet to leave Anfield. Remarkable show of support for Malky Mackay.— Tony Barrett (@TonyBarretTimes) December 21, 2013