Football: Suarez on target as Liverpool sweep past Palace
LIVERPOOL (AFP) - Liverpool striker Luis Suarez made a goal-scoring return to Anfield as the Reds swept to the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 win over struggling Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Suarez was appearing on home turf for the first time since completing his 10-match ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic last season and the Uruguay forward marked the occasion with his third goal in two matches following his brace at Sunderland last weekend.
He struck early in the first half and strike partner Daniel Sturridge added the second before Steven Gerrard's penalty effectively sealed the points before the interval.
Suarez has 19 goals in his last 22 games, while Sturridge has 19 in 24 matches since joining in January, including eight in nine this season.
Their deadly form, combined with Gerrard's 99th Premier League goal, helped lift Brendan Rodgers' team one point clear of second placed Arsenal, although the Gunners can regain top spot with a draw at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
Palace, who got one back late on through Dwight Gayle, remain second bottom of the table after their sixth defeat in seven league matches.
Liverpool's first half demolition job was watched by Reds legend Kenny Dalglish, who has returned to the club as a non-executive director 17 months after he was sacked to make way for Rodgers.
Suarez took just 13 minutes to make an impact when he took a Victor Moses pass and moved the ball onto Jose Enrique.
The Spaniard got to the byline and cut back to Suarez, who improvised brilliantly as he fell to the ground under pressure from Jason Puncheon, hooking the ball home while on his way down on one knee.
Within four minutes Liverpool had doubled their lead, with Suarez and Enrique playing a part again.
The Reds left-back tried to pick out the Uruguayan with a long pass out of defence and, with Adrian Mariappa coming out to challenge, the ball went over their heads and put Sturridge in one-on-one with Damien Delaney in the inside-left channel.
Sturridge changed directions three times on his way into the penalty area, leaving his marker all at sea, with the final switch giving the England striker just enough room to fire an angled shot across Julian Speroni and inside the far post.
Liverpool have never lost a Premier League home game having led by two goals, winning a remarkable 311 of 313 and that record was never likely to be threatened.
The match was over as a contest in the 38th minute when left-back Dean Moxey's pull on Raheem Sterling, starting his first league match since January in place of the suspended Lucas Leiva, was spotted by assistant referee Richard West.
Referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot and Gerrard, making his 638th appearance to replace Tommy Smith in seventh place in the club's all-time list, stroked home.
Palace had a better second half and were eventually rewarded with a goal after taking advantage of Liverpool's frailties at set-pieces in the 77th minute.
Half-time substitutes Jose Campana and Gayle combined with the former curling in a free-kick from out wide on the left and the latter touching it in.
Sturridge could have had his second when he hit a post late on and England manager Roy Hodgson, watching from the stands, will hope he can maintain that form in the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland.