Sunderland: Liverpool striker Luis Suarez scored twice on his return to Premier League action after five months out due to a ban for biting, helping his team beat last-place Sunderland 3-1 on Sunday and climb to second in the standings.
Daniel Sturridge put Liverpool ahead in the 28th minute before setting up both goals for fellow forward Suarez, who doubled the lead eight minutes later and then wrapped up victory in the 89th.
Italy forward Emanuele Giaccherini had reduced the deficit in the 52nd for Sunderland, which remained rooted to the bottom on just one point from six games.
It was the home side's first league match since firing maverick Italian coach Paolo Di Canio last weekend and it battled gamely under interim manager Kevin Ball, who is in the frame to take charge on a permanent basis.
But Sunderland was ultimately undone by Liverpool's razor-sharp front pairing. Their form will be vital if the 18-time champions are to stay in contention in what could prove to be an open title race this season given the frailties shown by Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea so far.
With no European football to clutter its schedule and already out of the League Cup after losing at United on Wednesday, Liverpool can give its full focus to the Premier League.
The Sturridge-Suarez partnership was showing real signs of blossoming toward the end of last season, only for it to be broken up when the latter was slapped with a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic during a league game. They picked up where they left off here, leaving Sunderland's defenders to chase shadows at times, with Suarez's goals a perfect illustration of their link-up play.
There was more than a hint of fortune about the goal that set Liverpool on its way, however.
Steven Gerrard's inswinging corner just cleared Kolo Toure at the far post and ended up hitting the upper arm of Sturridge as he stooped to connect with his head. Sebastian Larsson attempted to keep the ball out but only succeeded in deflecting it into the roof of the net, allowing Sturridge to claim his 11th goal in his last 11 league games.
"I've tried to head it, but my heading's obviously not good enough and it's gone in off my arm," Sturridge said with a smile. "But I wouldn't do that on purpose, these things happen."
Eight minutes later, Sturridge collected Gerrard's raking crossfield pass, cut inside and toe-poked a low cross to the back post where Suarez was on hand to tap home. He celebrated by revealing a T-shirt welcoming his new-born son, Benjamin.
Sunderland saw Larsson curl a free kick against the crossbar and then Craig Gardner denied by the feet of Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who left the Stadium of Light in the offseason. But the home side clawed itself back into the game when Giaccherini slotted home the rebound after Ki Sung-yueng's shot was parried out.
Suarez had the final say, as he often does. Sturridge led another fast counterattack down the left and picked out Suarez at the back post, with the Uruguay international hooking in left-footed.
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