Luis Suarez celebrated his new contract by firing Liverpool to the top of the Premier League as a first-half blitz saw off Cardiff City at Anfield.
Suarez volleyed in Jordan Henderson’s dinked cross to put the home side ahead on 25 minutes, then unselfishly squared when put clean through for Raheem Sterling to double their advantage.
The Uruguayan latched onto Henderson’s backheel to curl a superb third past David Marshall just before half-time and, though Jordon Mutch pulled one back for the visitors after the break, the damage was done.
|VIEW FROM ANFIELD
|By Jonathan Birchall
The air of inevitability that met Luis Suarez’s opener was only matched when the striker bagged a second, and an assist, at Anfield this afternoon.
His new deal on Friday had the Kop high in festive spirits from kick-off and the party atmosphere didn’t die down despite the visitors’ brave second-half showing.
If this does prove to be Malky Mackay’s final game as Cardiff City manager, onlooking owner Vincent Tan cannot question the players’ devotion to their boss.
The Bluebirds battled on for him after a testing week but today, inevitably, belonged to Suarez and his team-mates.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Brendan Rodgers made no changes to the Liverpool side that beat Tottenham 5-0 on Sunday. Suarez retained the captaincy after scoring eight goals in his previous three games.
The visitors made just one change from their 1-0 success over West Brom, with Aron Gunnarsson replacing Fraizer Campbell, who dropped to the bench.
Suarez was first to threaten with a shot that clipped David Marshall’s side netting after two minutes as the hosts applied early pressure.
Craig Noone had Cardiff’s first effort, forcing a save from Simon Mignolet following a quick counter after 16 minutes.
However, Suarez eventually broke Cardiff’s resolve when he produced a superb volleyed finish to Henderson’s cross, capping off a magnificent team goal.
Liverpool came close to doubling their advantage seven minutes before the interval when John Flanagan almost turned a Glen Johnson cross past Marshall from a tight angle.
Sterling added the second with his third goal in four games, tapping Suarez’s pass into an open net, before the Uruguay international again struck to put the game beyond Cardiff.
After a neat backheel from Henderson, Suarez curled an effort past Marshall and into the right-hand corner of the net for his 19th goal in 12 matches.
Following a low-key start to the second half, Mutch pulled a goal back for the visitors – heading home unmarked from Peter Whittingham’s delivery after 58 minutes.
It ended a run of 498 minutes without an away Premier League goal for Cardiff, who were much improved after the interval.
But a comeback never looked likely and Suarez was only denied a hat-trick by the width of a post as the hosts climbed to the top of the Premier League.