“IT was a great win and a great performance. I'm really pleased with the way the players committed themselves to the game. Luis is a fantastic footballer, a fantastic person, and we are very fortunate to have him playing for us.” Reds’ boss KENNY DALGLISH enthuses over the contribution made by hat-trick hero Luis Suarez.
“LIVERPOOL are a world-renowned club with some fabulous players. You cannot give somebody of Suarez's calibre time on the ball and chances – he can hurt you.” Norwich manager PAUL LAMBERT gives an honest appraisal of the Uruguayan international’s stunning solo performance.
IT WAS a moment of breathtaking individual brilliance.
A goal of such awe-inspiring quality that it almost defied belief.
There was a genius at work at Carrow Road on Saturday and he walked away with a beaming smile and the match ball under his arm.
Luis Suarez has never been far away from controversy this season but this was a day when the only talk was about the Liverpool striker’s world class talent.
It was cold, wet and they were 250 miles from home but the Uruguayan’s masterclass ensured the 2,000-strong travelling Kop will never forget this trip to Norfolk.
When Suarez departed late on, those delirious supporters rose to salute him, the cheers comfortably drowning out the jeers from the home end.
In truth, there were many dressed in yellow who also got to their feet to applaud him off in the knowledge they had been privileged to witness something very special.
This was the kind of demolition job Suarez has been threatening to unleash since August.
Norwich City weren’t the first team to be terrorised by the 25-year-old but they had the misfortune of being on the receiving end when everything clicked. One criticism frequently levelled at Suarez this season is that he’s a scorer of great goals, rather than a great goalscorer.
Certainly, his tally of eight in 28 Premier League games prior to Saturday was a desperately disappointing return for someone of his calibre. Too often there hasn’t been an end product to his dazzling approach play.
But his record at Ajax, where he plundered 81 goals in 110 league games, has always suggested he can display the ruthlessness of an assassin and finally at Carrow Road we got to see it.
There have been more significant hat-tricks scored by Liverpool players over the years but has there ever been one crafted with such technical expertise?
Having unleashed two stunning finishes past John Ruddy before the break, Suarez saved the best until last as he completed the first hat-trick of his Liverpool career.
When Glen Johnson’s long punt forward slipped under Elliott Ward’s boot close to the halfway line there appeared to be little danger.
However, Suarez latched onto the loose ball, spotted Ruddy off his line and executed the most audacious of chips over the stranded keeper from 45 yards out.
There have been times this season when questions have been asked about whether Suarez is really worth all the hassle. As his stunned team-mates raced to congratulate him, here was the answer.
The club took a battering for the support they gave him throughout the damaging race row with Patrice Evra and the subsequent eight-game ban he served. Throw in allegations of diving, another suspension for flashing his middle finger at Fulham fans and then the apology and public rebuke Liverpool issued after he failed to shake Evra’s hand at Old Trafford, it’s been a turbulent first full campaign in English football for the striker.
Big-spending Paris Saint-Germain have been keen to offer him an escape route but Suarez has reaffirmed his commitment to Anfield and there is no chance of the Reds cashing in.
This is a love affair which is only just getting started. Kenny Dalglish has stood by him through thick and thin, and that faith needs to be rewarded over an extended period.
Surely the frontman will now be wrapped up in cotton wool ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final? With Suarez in such blistering form, hope springs eternal that this rollercoaster campaign will end on a high with a domestic Cup double.
It was the perfect way for Dalglish’s men to kick-off a season-defining week. The galling defeat at home to West Brom had sparked fears that Liverpool could drop out of the top eight and register their lowest top flight finish since 1954. But this emphatic victory kept the Reds in touch with Everton in the battle for seventh. They still need five points from their final three league games to avoid recording the club’s lowest Premier League points total but if Fulham are swept aside at Anfield tomorrow night the Reds will head for the capital with momentum.
Suarez deservedly took the plaudits on Saturday but the supporting cast also played their part.
Skipper Steven Gerrard was outstanding on his return to the side and it was his link-up play with Suarez which repeatedly cut Norwich to shreds. The duo combined expertly for the opening goal midway through the first-half. Gerrard dispossessed David Fox and with the outside of his boot slid the perfect pass into Suarez’s path.
The Reds’ top scorer took a touch to steady himself and then hammered a left-footer past Ruddy.
After a scrappy start, suddenly Liverpool were rampant. Ryan Bennett was lucky to get away with blocking Gerrard’s goal-bound shot with his arm but for the Canaries there was no respite. In the 28th minute Suarez conjured up a second out of nothing as he caught Ward napping close to the touchline and scampered through. The angle was tight but he rifled an unstoppable low strike into the far corner.
It was a significant strike as it took Suarez to 10 goals in the league and he avoided joining Milan Baros (2004-05) and Jack Cox (1903-04) in the history books as the only players to have topped the club’s league scoring charts without reaching double figures.
Fed-up of being humiliated by the Uruguayan, Norwich resorted to kicking lumps out of him but he kept coming back for more. The nightmare for hapless centre-backs Ward and Ryan Bennett continued unabated.
In the second-half it should have been a rout. Jonjo Shelvey nodded against the bar before somehow failing to convert Jose Enrique’s cross. After an ineffective opening hour, Stewart Downing came to life and stung Ruddy’s palms.
Suarez spurned a gilt-edged chance to wrap up his treble after nutmegging Ryan Bennett as he went for a lob which sailed over. However, eight minutes from time that scowl was replaced with unbridled joy.
This was a night to savour. A night when Suarez and Liverpool finally made their class count.
NORWICH CITY (4-1-4-1): Ruddy; Naughton, R Bennett, Ward, Drury (Martin 12), Fox (Vaughan 46), E Bennett, Howson, Johnson, Pilkington, Morison (Holt 76). Subs (not used): Steer, Surman, Hoolahan, Wilbraham.
BOOKED: Ward, R Bennett, Vaughan, Howson.
LIVERPOOL (4-2-3-1): Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique, Henderson, Gerrard (Coates 85), Downing, Bellamy, Shelvey, Suarez (Kuyt 85). Subs (not used): Doni, Rodriguez, Spearing, Kelly, Skrtel.
GOALS: Suarez (24, 28, 82).
REFEREE: Mark Halsey (Welwyn Garden City).