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Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge extended their fruitful partnership as Liverpool went top of the Barclays Premier League with a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace.
The attacking duo both scored in the comprehensive victory at Anfield, taking their record to nine goals between them in nine Barclays Premier League appearances. Liverpool now move to the summit of the table with Arsenal not due to play until Sunday.
The hosts made the perfect start as Suarez first slotted home after neat interplay with Jose Enrique before a superb solo effort from Sturridge doubled the advantage on 17 minutes. Steven Gerrard added a third with a penalty six minutes before half-time, before Dwight Gayle grabbed a consolation with a near-post header in the second half.
Brendan Rodgers brought in Raheem Sterling for the suspended Lucas Leiva, while Ian Holloway named Jason Puncheon and Cameron Jerome in Palace's starting XI. Liverpool made the brighter start but could have been behind had Jerome done better with his eight-yard header from Puncheon's lofted cross.
It was one-way traffic after that early scare, however, as two goals in four minutes put the hosts in control. Suarez first played a neat one-two with Enrique in the box and, despite slipping, managed to keep his balance to slot home beyond Julian Speroni.
The home fans were celebrating again in the 17th minute with a fine individual effort from Sturridge. The England striker beat Joel Ward on the left before firing powerfully across goal into the far corner.
Palace pushed to get back into the game and Jimmy Kebe took ownership of a long ball before nudging an effort towards goal that Kolo Toure cleared off the line. Liverpool made it 3-0 from the penalty spot in the 39th minute. Sterling played a one-two with Suarez and was tugged down by Dean Moxey just inside the area. Gerrard dispatched the spot-kick hard to Speroni's right.
Soon after Suarez again teased the Palace defence and crossed for Victor Moses from the byline, but the Chelsea loanee saw the ball flick off his foot and hit the crossbar.
Mamadou Sakho nearly extended Liverpool's advantage immediately after the break when he powered a header wide from Gerrard's corner. Liverpool continued to control possession but were frustrated in their attempts for a fourth. Gayle missed a chance to reduce the deficit when he hit a fierce 20-yard strike over the bar, but with 15 minutes remaining Palace did pull one back as the forward flicked home a near-post header from Jose Campana's free-kick.
Sturridge hit the post in the closing stages as Liverpool looked good value for a victory that moves them back to the top of the Barclays Premier League and consigns Palace to a fourth consecutive league defeat.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: "It was an excellent first half and we got the three goals and could have had two more. Some of our play in the attacking third was exceptional and we created a number of chances. The second half is always difficult when you are comfortable in a game, we wanted to go and push on in the second half and it didn't quite materialise and you have to give credit to Crystal Palace.
"It typifies the man, [Luis Suarez] gives 100 per cent and tripped over in the box and got himself to the ball and scooped it in. He and Daniel Sturridge were exceptional up there today and particularly in the first half and you could see the link-up play they have that telepathic idea of where they are and it is great to see and very encouraging. Top players are often on the same wavelength and them two are."
Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway: "It is very difficult - if you make any sort of mistake at this level, particularly with the strikeforce they have, you get punished. But for the vast majority of the game I was very pleased. At the end of the first half and start of the second, a lot of teams would have folded but we came back and won that half 1-0 and showed a lot of good things.
"Unfortunately we are finding out the hard way at this level that if you don’t take your opportunities, however few and far between they are, it is going to be a long tough game and season. We are being punished at the moment but that’s this level but that second-half performance showed a lot of guts and determination and we will gain a lot of belief from that. We need to start games with that belief.
"Dwight Gayle is a fantastic striker and we have got to think about putting him right up the middle. With his predatory instincts we can get him on that last man and we will be working on that."
|07 Dec 2013||v West Ham (H)|
|05 May 2014||v Crystal Palace (A)|
|11 May 2014||v Newcastle (H)|
|06 Apr 2014||v West Ham (A)|
|22 Mar 2014||v Cardiff (A)|
|08 Feb 2014||v Arsenal (H)|