By Richard Parry
‘He was fantastic,’ beamed Luis Suarez’s manager, as Kenny Dalglish became the latest member of the Liverpool family to wax lyrical over their star striker following an electric display at Craven Cottage.
Maxi Rodriguez may well receive the plaudits – a second hat-trick in three matches from a guy deemed an Anfield squad player is some achievement after all – but it was the Uruguayan who orchestrated Liverpool’s 5-2 domination of Mark Hughes’ men on Monday evening.
Donning the infamous scarlet red No.7 shirt, the former Ajax man stormed the turf in a display that will have evoked flashbacks to an era when Dalglish himself ruled the roost. His slick, jet black hair may be a contrast to charm of the rugged Scot of the 70s and 80s, but it was only these connotations of the modern footballer which seemed to set the pair apart in west London.
If Chelsea’s £50 million swoop for Fernando Torres, despite his misfiring form, is still regarded as shrewd business by the chiefs at Stamford Bridge, then the £22.8m capture of Suarez is nothing short of daylight robbery.
Speaking after the match, Fulham boss Hughes – in what was merely a breather from his musings on his side’s first-half capitulation – lauded the Anfield hitman as an ‘exceptional player’.
“If we dictate him then it’s OK, but he dictated us today,” Hughes continued. But in truth, and without disrespect, better defences than Fulham’s will try and fail to suppress the tenacious 24-year-old.
| PLAYER RATING
|8.5||"First class, top draw, whatever the cliche that was Luis Suarez this evening"|
His performance and passion were summed up when, after bewildering Carlos Salcido for the umpteenth time with a meandering run down the channel, Suarez jinked past Brede Hangeland before a classic moment of goal-mouth pinball eventually saw the ball drift to safety, to the ring of penalty appeals from the Uruguayan.
This was in stoppage time, with his name already on the scoresheet, and with Liverpool 5-2 up; sparking another chorus of ‘I just can’t get enough’ from the Liverpool faithful.
Liverpool’s transformation under Dalglish is well documented – with the club second only to the resurgent Chelsea in the form table – but the Anfield chiefs must secure the Scot’s future and supply the funds to build a team around their latest Kop star.
The impact of Steve Clarke – Jose Mourinho’s former No.2 – should also not be overlooked, with Liverpool having recorded eight clean sheets since his arrival at the club.
Such strong foundations - despite a defence which has included the inexperienced John Flanagan for the past five matches and Glen Johnson in an unfamiliar left-back role – has formed a formidable barrier in front of a revitalised Pepe Reina, allowing the likes of Maxi and Dirk Kuyt to bomb forward rather than track back, while Suarez offers all the class of Torres, with an energy so often left for captain Steven Gerrard to provide.
Only time will tell how thickly the Dalglish magic dust has settled, but should he be allowed to nurture his team further, and around the talented Suarez, Anfield could well and truly be set for another renaissance.
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