Suarez double helps sink Wigan
Striker Luis Suarez proved just how valuable he is to Liverpool with two goals and an assist to help secure a 3-0 win against Wigan.
The Uruguay international struck twice in nine second-half minutes and also played a part in the third which saw Jose Enrique score his first goal for the club.
Reports this week that Manchester City were ready to make a £40million bid for the striker in January were dismissed by Roberto Mancini and Brendan Rodgers, with the latter confidently stating his prize asset was not for sale.
And in any case, scoring in five successive matches to take his tally to 10 in as many appearances would appear to have boosted Suarez's price tag by several million more.
Not that Liverpool would consider - or could even countenance - selling a player who is so vital to any chance of success in the short- to medium-term.
Without the 25-year-old's input this season - from goals and assists - the Reds would be in the bottom three.
It is difficult to put a price on exactly how much that is worth to a team still growing into Rodgers' way of working but it is safe to say it would likely take much more to replace what he has brought to the side this campaign.
Yet Suarez was strangely subdued in a first half which had very few talking points.
With goalkeeper Jose Reina making his first appearance since October 7, Rodgers reverted to back four having opted for three centre-backs at Chelsea last weekend.
Somewhat surprisingly he selected Enrique on the left of midfield but before the half was out he had tinkered with his tactical line-up having seen his side fail to get a grip on the game.
The hosts began well with Suarez's cross turned behind by Ben Watson and Daniel Agger's header from the corner tipped just wide by the outstretched hand of Ali Al Habsi.
After Reina shrugged off some of the rustiness with a routine save from Arouna Kone's long-range effort both Agger and Suso headed over.
It was virtually the young Spaniard's last involvement as just past the half-hour he was replaced by Jordan Henderson with Gerrard moving forward to play in the hole by Suarez in an attempt to get more support for the Uruguay international.
By then Wigan had lost Watson to a painful shin injury after he was caught by Raheem Sterling, with Ivan Ramis' subsequent free-kick deflected behind off the wall.
There followed plenty of possession without much penetration from both sides.
Whatever was said by Rodgers to his team - and Suarez in particular - at half-time had the desired effect as Liverpool came out a side with much greater purpose.
It took them just over two minutes to prove it with a swift drive forward for the opening goal.
Andre Wisdom's pass into space gave Sterling, who had also had an uncharacteristically quiet 45 minutes, the chance to nip in front of Maynor Figueroa and run at the Wigan defence.
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|Saturday, November 17|
|Manchester City||5-0||Aston Villa||Recap|
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|Sunday, November 18|
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When he crossed for Suarez the Uruguayan's first-time shot, assisted by a slight deflection of Ivan Ramis, beat Al Habsi.
If the goal energised the home side it ignited Suarez, who was rampant after that.
Enrique drove infield from the left and poked in a through-ball which still required plenty from Suarez but in his current form there was only going to be one outcome and he easily beat the goalkeeper.
The third goal had a touch of fortune but only in its origin.
A throw-in down Wigan's left should have gone to the visitors but the officials awarded it to Liverpool and it was from that they finished off the game.
Suarez again had major part to play, sliding a pass through the inside-right channel to Sterling whose shot was parried by Al Habsi into the path of Enrique who could not miss from a few yards out.
The Spaniard, benefiting from his advanced position, celebrated only his second goal in five years in English football, his first coming for Newcastle against Nottingham Forest in March 2010.
Confidence was now surging through a Liverpool side who had previously been so timid and reticent in front of their own fans in 2012 - having previously only won three league matches at Anfield all year.
That was typified by Glen Johnson's run, starting on the halfway line close to the left touchline, which saw the England defender drive just wide with his right foot from the edge of the area.
Suarez eventually departed to a well-deserved standing ovation late on as Rodgers protected his investment on the back of seven-match unbeaten run.