Luis Suarez was the inspiration as Liverpool cruised into the final qualifying round of the Europa League — and it seems Joe Allen is about to provide further cheer for the Anfield faithful.
After telling Swansea he wants to move north, Allen was present to watch Suarez create first-half goals for Fabio Borini and skipper Steven Gerrard as Belarus outfit FC Gomel proved no match for the Merseyside giants. Glen Johnson added another after half-time.
It was a positive way for Brendan Rodgers to mark his first home game in charge, particularly with his first signing Borini capping a useful performance by grabbing a precious goal on his home debut, thrashing home a first-time shot from 10 yards.
More significant tests are to come and the presence of Reds’ former assistant-manager Steve Clarke was a reminder that the first Premier League game against West Brom is only nine days away.
However, this win should at least settle some of the nerves which have started to grow amid speculation that Daniel Agger and Andy Carroll might end up joining the summer exodus from a club that expects much better than last season’s eighth-place finish.
There are some who wonder whether Rodgers would be happy to pocket the cash for Agger to fund a squad strengthening exercise but the Liverpool manager was fulsome in his praise on Wednesday and was prepared to put Jamie Carragher on the bench to accommodate Agger last night.
Suarez’s presence was the most telling though.
Eight days after his Olympic campaign with Uruguay came to a sorry end in Cardiff and with a lucrative contract signed earlier this week, he approached the tie with a sense of purpose.
He raced onto a return pass from Gerrard before flashing a shot inches over, then left Gomel skipper Nikolai Kashevsky looking silly with a smart turn.
Unfortunately for the South American, he could not profit from his impudence as Vladimir Bushma got down to save his angled drive.
Gomel were finding it impossible to subdue Suarez and when he outsmarted them again with a run to the byline, it led directly to Liverpool’s opener.
Kashevsky stuck out a leg to turn the low cross out of the six-yard area but in doing so sent it straight to Borini, who promptly smashed a first-time shot under Bushma’s body.
It was a fine way for Borini to mark his home debut and the former Chelsea man thought he was going to get another shortly afterwards, only for Sergey Matsveychyk to turn away a Suarez cross that was about to leave the Italian with an empty net to shoot at.
Instead, Gerrard got one four minutes from time.
Once again Suarez did the spadework, driving into the heart of Gomel’s defence and drawing Bushma, leaving the Reds skipper with the simplest task.
With a place in today’s draw secure, Liverpool went in search of more goals after the break and their third eventually arrived 19 minutes from time as Johnson belted home a left-footed shot from the edge of the area.
LIVERPOOL: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel (Carragher 76), Agger, Jose Enrique, Gerrard, Lucas (Spearing 86), Shelvey (Adam 76), Suarez, Borini, Downing.
GOMEL: Bushma, Matsveychyk, Kuzmenok, Kashevsky, Klimovich (Yevseyenko 85) , Voronkov, Kozeka (Kirilchik 74), Nowak (Lipatkin 62), Aleksiyevich, Platonov, Alumona.
Referee: Kenn Hansen (Denmark)
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