Luis Suarez took his season haul to 13 with a brace as Liverpool recorded an emphatic 3-0 victory over Wigan Athletic in the Barclays Premier League at Anfield.
After an even first half which the Reds edged in chances created, Suarez hit the target just two minutes into the second period and added another within ten minutes before Jose Enrique completed the rout.
Prematch, the Reds were boosted by the return of goalkeeper Pepe Reina between the posts, while Enrique was rewarded with another opportunity to impress following his positive performance in the draw at Chelsea.
A 2-1 victory at Anfield had proved a pivotal success in Wigan’s battle for survival last season, but the Latics had no answer to a blistering 20-minute assault from the home side in the second half this time around.
Attacking towards The Kop in the first half, it was Enrique who struck the first shot in anger after retrieving possession in Wigan territory. The attempt was always wide of Ali Al Habsi‘s goal, though.
An exquisite piece of individual play followed, with Suso making the most of the freedom being offered by a central berth behind Suarez. The Spaniard rolled his man and glided past two more but was blocked when trying to unleash from the edge of the area.
Suarez saw a center cleared and Daniel Agger‘s header was deflected wide from the resulting corner before Wigan retaliated in the 15th minute. Neat, patient build-up allowed Arouna Kone to set up Ben Watson, but the midfielder’s drive sailed high over Reina.
Kone skipped past Joe Allen four minutes later and tried his luck — no concern for Reina. Agger connected with another corner but the Dane was off target again, and Suso stung Al Habsi’s palms with a vicious drive as the Reds increased the pressure.
There was an extended break in play due to an injury to Watson, who clashed in an aerial 50-50 with Raheem Sterling, with the midfielder forced off and replaced by David Jones.
Suso quickly nodded over after good work down the left by Glen Johnson but it was to be the 18-year-old’s last contribution, replaced ten minutes before half-time by Jordan Henderson.
Excellent control in the middle of the park gave Steven Gerrard the chance to release Suarez in the penalty area, but the Uruguayan’s pull-back toward the onrushing Enrique was smartly marshalled by Al Habsi as the opening period concluded.
Liverpool was ahead within two minutes of the restart and it was that man again — Suarez. An instinctive interception gave Sterling room to race away behind the Wigan defence and his cut-back was beautifully swept home first time by the No. 7.
Reina made a routine save from Franco Di Santo and Henderson dragged a shot wide of the left post before Suarez doubled his and Liverpool’s tally for the day in the 58th minute.
Enrique collected the ball on the left side and drifted into a central position before stabbing a pinpoint through ball into the path of Suarez. As so often this season, the forward was the epitome of calm –- the ball simply rolled beyond the dive of Al Habsi.
In this mood, few defenses can stop Suarez and he burst into the box again only for his attempt to be deflected into the side-netting, but the Reds were not to be denied for long.
Wigan was struggling to cope with the creativity and pace of Liverpool’s front three -– Enrique, Sterling and Suarez -– and the trio combined for a sumptuous third goal.
Sterling snapped a one-two with his senior colleague Suarez, collected the return and delivered low to the back post. Cue Enrique, arriving at the perfect moment to tap into an empty net and all but seal three points.
A typically buccaneering dribble from Johnson almost resulted in a fourth for the hosts, but the defender’s effort was the wrong side of the post. Enrique tried to tee up Suarez for a hat-trick but on this occasion the forward could not find the target.
Liverpoolfc.com journalists’ man of the match: Luis Suarez