LIVERPOOL 0 - 0 TOTTENHAM
Bright, brash & back in the spotlight - Luis Suarez shows his good, bad and ugly sides on Liverpool return
The Uruguayan made his first appearance in nine matches against Tottenham on Monday night and showed why he has been both a hero and villain in the Premier League this season
There was tangible disappointment around Anfield on Monday night as the news that Luis Suarez would not start against Tottenham disseminated.
That the Uruguayan has been away for just nine games but has been missed so sorely says much about his worth to the club’s fans and the team just a year since his move to Merseyside.
His later cameo as a substitute, however, served to underline so much more than that. There are many sides of the coin with Suarez and, in just a half-hour period, he served to show them all.
The now oft-discussed negative aspects of the South American’s personality and his absence itself came to the forefront this season as a product of two separate bans. The first, a one-match ban collected for a one-fingered gesture towards Fulham fans after a disappointing result, is perhaps easily dismissed as a mild misdemeanour, the actions of a frustrated man.
However, at the time that ban was accepted by the Liverpool hierarchy, they may well not have expected the somewhat lengthier sanction that awaited their star striker.
The now over-analysed Patrice Evra incident was a more unsavoury matter than that which preceded it and the resultant verdict led not only to an eight-match ban, but an irreversible change in the way in which the Liverpool No.7 is perceived in England.
It had been claimed that the Reds’ acceptance of that ban, despite fierce protestations over the reliability of evidence used to charge Suarez, would signal an end to the matter. The ban was supposed to be the line under the incident, one which we may never truly know the exact details of.
However, as Suarez warmed up in front of the Anfield Road end against Tottenham, the predictable reality of the situation reared its head. Chants regarding the Uruguayan’s racial tolerance were inevitably aired by opposing fans whose purview is not one of even-handedness but of exploiting weaknesses in whatever way possible.
Perhaps then it was this that prompted Suarez to kick England’s Scott Parker, quite blatantly, in the midriff moments after his introduction. The ball had fallen in the box and was there to be won, of course, but the problem was Suarez appeared to believe that it would be a challenge involving boots and not heads, as would have been more fitting.
Whatever the reasoning behind that, the striker picked up a yellow card to mark his return and provided more substantiation for those so willing to highlight his less-than-innocent nature.
Yet, if he has been widely considered a pantomime villain by fans of various Premier League clubs in his first year in England, he has always fulfilled his role of hero on Merseyside with aplomb and he showed just why by justifying the rapturous welcome afforded him when replacing Dirk Kuyt on the hour mark.
The striker was instantly involved in a tenacious battle with Benoit Assou-Ekotto for the ball, one which he won, typically. And, though the subsequent quick-passing exchange with Steven Gerrard came to nothing, the creative spark which the former Ajax man personifies, one which the Reds have lacked, was clearly illustrated in a matter of moments.
For a man who provokes so many extremes in emotion, though, the one facet of Suarez’s makeup which could be described as less than ruthless is the one which the Anfield faithful and Kenny Dalglish would most like him to eliminate. A bland streak, a middle-of-the-road indifference, the elephant in the room that is the forward’s occasionally erratic finishing.
Suarez's late header could have given him a dream return
He, of course, exhibited this aspect of his character on Monday night as well, namely when presented with a golden opportunity to seal a dream return and a vital three points. A Gerrard free-kick into the box managed to find Ledley King off-guard in a rare moment of weakness.
Suarez was the man to leap highest, but managed to nod straight at Brad Friedel when any significant deviation would have left the American stranded.
It is this sort of occurrence which indicates that the Reds should not believe all their woes will evaporate upon Suarez’s return. The Uruguayan has in fact featured in seven of the eight home draws for which Dalglish’s men have taken so much criticism this season and it is in this light that his arrival should be considered.
As a creator of chances, an inspiration amongst packed visiting defences, but never as the solution to a wider goalscoring problem.
The improving form of Andy Carroll and what Suarez can do to further facilitate that progression provides much more encouragement in that sense for Liverpool.