Luis Suárez scores on his debut as Liverpool beat Stoke

New boy seals the points for Liverpool at Anfield after Raul Meireles put the hosts in front

By Michael Owen
Stoke City

As Anfield waited in anticipation for the debut of Luis Suárez fellow new signing Andy Carroll was paraded in front of the Liverpool faithful.

It was the day after the night before, so to speak. Liverpool supporters had just recovered from the manic transfer deadline two days before and were optimistic about their future after Fenway Sports Group – the club’s owners – had sanctioned the purchase of Suárez and Carroll, both of whom represented record transfers for the club.

The Stoke side that lined up at Anfield represented some of Liverpool’s most recent past. Salif Diao, the Senegalese international, was one of ill-fated signings made by Gérard Houllier in his final years as manager of the Merseyside club while Jermaine Pennant failed to impress after being brought to Liverpool by Rafael Benítez from Birmingham City.

It was a new formation for Liverpool, with Martin Kelly and Glen Johnson playing as wing-backs to add much-needed pace to the Reds’ attacks. Lucas and Fabio Aurelio was tasked with sitting back and pulling the strings in the middle of the park while Raul Meireles and Steven Gerrard pushed forward to support Dirk Kuyt – Liverpool’s lone striker.

Liverpool came close in the first half, both Johnson and Kuyt firing in dangerous headers, with the former having his well-saved by Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and the latter’s effort flying just wide of the far post to ensure the sides remained level going in to the break.

It didn’t take the hosts long to take the lead in the second half, with Sotirios Kyrgiakos latching on to a deflected Gerrard free-kick before turning quickly in the box and laying it off to Meireles, who drilled his shot straight into the back of the net to clinch his third goal in four games.

The Potters looked to try and get back into the game. Tony Pulis replaced Diao and Marc Wilson with Rory Delap and Ricardo Fuller as the visitors began to get a foothold in the game and increase the pressure on the Reds’ back line. It nearly told, too, when John Carew fired just wide of Pepe Reina’s goal from a tight angle.

Suárez, brought on for Fabio Aurelio in the 63rd minute, was exactly the boost Liverpool needed in order to push forward for a second goal that would take the game away from Stoke.

It came just 15 minutes later when Dirk Kuyt flicked a ball over the top to the former Ajax man, who rounded Begovic before firing it into the back of the net, with a deflection from Andy Wilkinson not enough to deny the new number seven a goal on his debut.

Jonathan Walters nearly reduced the deficit for Stoke, firing his shot towards goal and forcing a magnificent save from Reina – the Spanish goalkeeper further sealed his place in the Reds’ record books by keeping the third-highest number of clean sheets of any Liverpool goalkeeper.

As Suárez and his team-mates celebrated on the pitch, Carroll celebrated in the directors’ box, applauding his new strike partner.

Next to him, the man responsible with bringing the players to the club—director of football strategy Damien Comolli—offered high-fives to senior Anfield officials as a new era in the illustrious history of Liverpool Football Club began.


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