Suarez makes dream debut

THE script for far too long has been a tale of disappointment for Liverpool, but Luis Suarez last night allowed their long-suffering supporters to dream of better days ahead after marking his debut with a goal in front of The Kop.

Seven days after Fernando Torres made his 102nd and final top-flight appearance in a Liverpool shirt, Suarez required just 16 minutes to open his goal account after Dirk Kuyt’s pass had split the Stoke defence wide open. That made it 2-0 after Raul Meireles had set Liverpool on the way to a third straight league win after 47 minutes.

It means Liverpool head to Chelsea and a reunion with their former striker Torres on Sunday just two points behind sixth-placed Sunderland.

The win and the start for the Uruguayan had Kenny Dalglish in raptures. “I'm delighted for him (Suarez),” beamed Dalglish. “He (Suarez) has not even had the opportunity to training with us. He worked hard.

“Great credit to the players; its been a busy week. We have been in the papers more than we have wanted to be but they have just gone on with it. We have a group if players who want to compete for everything.”

Stoke boss Tony Pulis said: “I don't think you need me... it’s all about their new lad isn’t it?

“We're quite happy for the lad to claim it. If I was Kenny, if he was half a yard near it then it’s his goal.”

These are days of change at Anfield.

After the departure of Roy Hodgson and the return of an old favourite in the shape of Kenny Dalglish, the famous old stadium welcomed £58m (€68m) worth of goalscoring talent in the shape of Suarez and Andy Carroll.

There was a huge cheer for Carroll, the £35m (€41m) deadline day arrival from Newcastle, as he walked into the ground a Liverpool player for the first time.

Yet despite all the changes, Liverpool still had a familiar look about them.

Lucas, sent off when these two sides last met at the Britannia Stadium last November, was on show along with the likes of Martin Skrtel and Sotirios Kyrgiakos, who were also present as Hodgson’s hapless side were defeated 2-0 at Stoke three months earlier.

With Torres gone having failed to collect a medal during three-and-a-half-years on Merseyside and neither of the new signings deemed fit enough to start, it was left to Kuyt to spearhead the attack on his own.

Yet it was defenders Kyrgiakos and Glen Johnson who went closest to breaking the deadlock in a patchy first half display by the hosts.

Salif Diao, the former Liverpool player, made a vital clearance off the line to deny Kyrgiakos a rare goal in the sixth minute while Johnson’s powerful 38th minute header brought a stunning one-handed save from Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic.

That was as good as it got for Dalglish’s side in the first half. Kuyt produced a typically busy performance and forced Begovic into a smart stop, but Liverpool lacked cutting edge.

It was a productive night for returning Liverpool players. As well as Diao, Jermaine Pennant teased his former club, the winger supplying an inch-perfect 22nd-minute cross John Carew should have buried.

It spoke volumes about Liverpool’s performance that the biggest roar in the opening 45 minutes was reserved for the sight of Suarez warming up. But the second half was barely a minute old when the fans had genuine reason to cheer, Meireles burying his third goal for the club after Stoke’s defence failed to properly clear Steven Gerrard’s shot.

Stoke hit back and Carew fired narrowly wide in the 61st minute.

The moment Liverpool fans waited for arrived in the 64th minute, Suarez climbing off the bench to partner Kuyt in attack, replacing Fabio Aurelio. And in a fairytale start, Suarez required just 16 minutes to make an impact as he held his nerve to go round Begovic before rolling a shot goalward which found the net despite Andy Wilkinson’s attempt to clear.

LIVERPOOL (5-4-1): Reina 7; Kelly 7, Kyrgiakos 6, Skrtel 6, Agger 6, Johnson 6; Lucas 6, Gerrard 7, Meireles 8 (Shelvey 75, 6), Aurelio 6 (Suarez 63, 7); Kuyt 7.

STOKE (4-4-2): Begovic 8; Higginbotham 6, Huth 6, Wilson 6 (Fuller 66, 5), Wilkinson 6; Pennant 6, Diao 6 (Delap 61, 6), Whitehead 6, Faye 6; Walters 6, Carew 6.

Referee: Anthony Taylor 6.

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