José Enrique has Liverpool dancing to Brendan Rodgers' choreography

An expensive car sat stationary at the Shankly Gates, its engine idling as autograph hunters pushed scraps of papers through the windows.

Stewards made half-hearted attempts to clear the crowd but, judging by the brightness of his smile, Brendan Rodgers was rather enjoying the moment.

Around 90 minutes earlier the final whistle had blown on a win that Liverpool's manager must have felt represented more than the collection of an admittedly precious three points.

Quite apart from coming up against Roberto Martínez – a principal rival for the Anfield job last summer – it had the air of a watershed moment. A case of weeks of painstaking training ground choreography paying off as players demonstrated they are really beginning to grasp his vision.

Granted, it would almost certainly not have happened without Luis Suárez but it is slightly unfair to dub Anfield's class of 2012-13 a one-man team. Rodgers's conversion of José Enrique from out-of-favour full-back to inventive left-sided attacking midfielder resulted in the Spaniard scoring his first goal for the club, creating Suárez's second and inspiring several of Liverpool's best moments.

If Rodgers stretched a point when he likened José Enrique to Gareth Bale, the acceleration and beautifully weighted through ball which prefaced Suárez sliding the ball past Ali al-Habsi was a bit Bale-esque.

Equally encouragingly, England new boy Raheem Sterling – one of three teenagers in Liverpool's starting XI – also excelled, conjuring goals for Suárez and José Enrique. "Raheem's pull-back for Suárez's first was dead weight," Rodgers said. It came after the 17-year-old intercepted Jean Beausejour's slapdash pass and rounded Maynor Figueroa. Later, Sterling's parried shot precipitated José Enrique tapping home the third.

Despite his disappointment, Martínez – whose 3-4-1-2 formation initially confounded Liverpool – applauded Sterling's talent. "He's someone who finds the little spaces really well, then he's very direct," said Wigan's manager. "I love that sort of football."

Sterling was blameless for the sickening collision of shins with Ben Watson which left the Wigan midfielder with a broken leg and Martínez discussing the types of surgical screws and nails potentially required to repair it.

"Raheem's amazing," said Rodgers who remains confident his protege will shortly sign a new, lengthy, contract. "He's so bright and sharp and you're seeing that little bit of arrogance with the ball. He's got a lot to learn but he's comfortable now."

So too, was, Steven Gerrard. Impressively controlled in a holding role, England's captain demonstrated a refreshing willingness to adapt to Rodgers's strictures.

If often thrilling rampages were part of Gerrard's old job, Jordan Henderson has done far too much aimless charging around since arriving from Sunderland. Here though Anfield saw a newly disciplined Henderson. Having replaced Suso in a tactical rejig which liberated Sterling's attacking potential, he shone, sticking to the blueprint admirably.

Suárez, meanwhile, has apparently forgotten how to play badly. Martínez's claim that the Uruguayan was lucky to escape dismissal after an undetected stamp on David Jones, reminded everyone that he is no angel but failed to detract from two expert finishes.

"Luis is a real masterclass marksmen, up there with the world's best," Rodgers said. "In that loose, lone striker's role he's not playing off second balls, or off anyone, he's playing off movement and cleverness inside the box."

Like Rodgers, Tom Werner refuses to countenance cashing in on Suárez. "I absolutely would not consider selling him," said Liverpool's chairman. "Our intention is to strengthen the squad in January. Hopefully the fans will be pleased with what we accomplish."

Man of the match: Luis Suárez (Liverpool)

Powered by article was written by Louise Taylor at Anfield, for The Guardian on Sunday 18th November 2012 23.01 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © Sanjiva

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