Luis Suárez brought his 10-day old son, Benjamin, and daughter, Delfina, on to the pitch before kick-off and requested a family snap from Liverpool's official photographer. He chose the Kop as the backdrop, showing the club still holds meaning despite the summer's attempt to leave, handed the children back to their mother, switched from family man to tireless menace and guided Liverpool to the top of the Premier League. He could have done so with Benjamin in his arms such was the resistance from Crystal Palace.
Suárez scored one improvised goal and shone on his first competitive outing at Anfield since biting Branislav Ivanovic in April. Daniel Sturridge added his eighth of the season and Steven Gerrard converted a penalty as Brendan Rodgers' team reclaimed top spot with a ruthless 45-minute display against Ian Holloway's struggling team. The overall 90, however, left the Liverpool manager deeply unimpressed, with the exception of the two strikers, as Palace created several clear chances and mounted a second-half recovery.
"In the final third it was very good," Rodgers said. "Those two boys up front [Suárez and Sturridge] are as good as anything in the league. We took our goals well but the second half was nowhere near where we wanted to be. In my first season we were guilty of playing well and not getting the result. Here we got the win without playing great."
Rodgers sent a collection of water bottles flying at 2-0 after yet another careless pass from defence. But his problems pale in comparison to Holloway's, whose return to the Premier League has brought six defeats in seven outings. "Missing the odd opportunity on the break in the first half was crucial," said the Palace manager. "We need more confidence in front of goal. There was enough fidgeting going on next to me from Brendan, believe you me, but unfortunately we are being punished for every mistake at the moment. It is unforgiving at this level."
The movement and finishing of Suárez and Sturridge was too much in the first half for Palace, who lack the defensive quality to cope with a partnership of that pedigree. Their decision-making was also culpable for Liverpool's advantage yet, despite the comfortable margin of the home victory, the visitors had sufficient chances to turn the afternoon into a contest.
Victor Moses served notice of Palace's inability to track runs into their area when picked out by José Enrique's fine first-time cross, only to squander the chance to convert against his former club. The onslaught commenced moments later. Moses was instrumental in the breakthrough, weaving his way across field and feeding Suárez on the left. The striker released José Enrique on the outside, the full-back returned a clever pass to Suárez and, despite losing his footing amid three Palace defenders, he managed to hook the ball beyond Julián Speroni while flat on the floor. An unorthodox finish from a rare talent, who pointed to his young family in celebration.
Speroni thwarted Sturridge when he was released by Raheem Sterling, part of a reorganised Liverpool midfield in the absence of the suspended Lucas Leiva, but was beaten emphatically when they next met. It was a goal from the Suárez textbook. José Enrique was again involved with a long ball down the left that Adrian Mariappa glanced into Sturridge's path. "He didn't need to go for that header," Holloway said. "The second goal was self-inflicted." The England international twisted Damien Delaney inside out and scored with a powerful finish into the far corner. It was Sturridge's 16th goal or assist in his past 12 Premier League appearances. Roy Hodgson, watching from a seat in the director's box having been affronted at his place among the scouts on his last Anfield visit, will have been pleased he came back.
At 2-0 with less than a quarter of the game gone, humiliation beckoned for Palace. Yet they responded well and had enough chances to have unnerved Liverpool. Mamadou Sakho blocked a drive from Stuart O'Keefe and Jimmy Kébé made a mess of a glorious opportunity when sent clear by a combination of Cameron Jerome and careless Liverpool defending. Kébé almost deflected Jerome's shot past Simon Mignolet from the rebound, but the keeper saved well and Puncheon skied the loose ball over.
Liverpool were reprieved again when Mignolet missed Jerome's deflected cross and Sakho almost sliced the ball into his own net. But the home side were gifted a third when Dean Moxey needlessly tugged Sterling on the corner of the area as he attempted a one-two with Suárez. The assistant referee immediately signalled for a spot-kick and Gerrard did the rest, sending Speroni the wrong way from 12 yards. "It wasn't a foul or inside the area," Holloway said.
Before the first half was over Moses struck the bar from a Suárez cross and Speroni saved well from the Uruguay forward. With the game won, Liverpool eased off after the interval and Palace discovered their finishing touch when substitute Dwight Gayle glanced José Campaña's free-kick into the far corner of Mignolet's goal. Palace's raucous away support taunted their Liverpool counterparts with: "Is this your first trip to Anfield?" The Kop responded with: "This is your last trip to Anfield." With some justification on this evidence.