Luis Suarez marked his Premier League return with two goals as Liverpool defeated Sunderland 3-1 on Sunday.
Daniel Sturridge opened the scoring in controversial circumstances as he appeared to inadvertently handle over the line before Suarez ensured the visitors held a two-goal advantage at the break courtesy of a close-range finish.
And, though Sunderland rallied following a Emanuele Giaccherini goal early in the second period, Liverpool sealed the three points late on as Suarez scored thanks to a Sturridge assist for the second time in the game.
The result moves the Merseyside club to second in the English top flight, and gets Brendan Rodgers' team back to winning ways following consecutive defeats against Southampton and Manchester United.
Liverpool named an unchanged team from their narrow midweek defeat at Old Trafford in the League Cup, with Rodgers choosing to stick with the 3-5-2 formation that served his side well in Manchester.
Sunderland, meanwhile, made four changes from their cup outing, with Liverpool loanee Fabio Borini the most notable omission as Jozy Altidore returned in attack.
Suarez was handed his first league start after his 10-match ban, and he made an instant impression on the match as he drove narrowly wide from the edge of the area early on.
Liverpool in fact had the ball in the Sunderland net in the first 10 minutes, but Martin Skrtel saw the linesman's flag raised for offside after he had side-footed the rebound from a Steven Gerrard free-kick into the roof of the goal.
An entertaining midfield scrap ensued after that disappointment for Liverpool, but Sunderland were the next go close to scoring amid the melee. Sebastian Larsson almost made the most of an arguably fortunate free-kick award, curling a brilliant effort onto the bar with former team-mate Simon Mignolet looking beaten.
The visitors had ridden their luck to remain level, and were the recipients of yet another slice of good fortune at the other end of the pitch moments later. Gerrard found Sturridge with a corner delivery from the left-hand side and, though the striker misjudged his attempted header, the ball ricocheted in off his arm to give Liverpool the lead.
Just eight minutes later, Rodgers' side had their second, and it came - perhaps inevitably - from returning forward Suarez. A fabulous cross-field ball from Gerrard allowed Sturridge to make ground on the right-hand side, and the striker's poke across goal provided his Uruguayan colleague with a tap-in from close range.
Liverpool had little trouble in taking their two-goal lead into the break, but the away side received a rude awakening early in the second as Sunderland pulled one back. Mignolet failed to keep hold of a Ki Sung-Yueng effort from the edge of the box, and Giaccherini reacted quicker than the visitors' defenders to poke the ball home.
The goal buoyed Sunderland's fans, with the increased noise inside the Stadium of Light adding vigour to the hosts' counter-attacks.
But Liverpool looked the bigger threat, and they came close to doubling their lead on two occasions as Victor Moses' inswinging cross drifted narrowly wide before Suarez should have done better in getting onto a cross from the left.
The 26-year-old eventually got his second, however, as he passed the ball home after Sturridge unselfishly squared following a swift counter-attacking move late on.
|23||E. Giaccherini||52' 59'|
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