By Ian Ransom
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard slotted a first-half goal and Iago Aspas a second in injury-time to secure a 2-0 win over Melbourne Victory but Luis Suarez hogged the limelight at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday.
Striker Suarez’s commitment to the Merseyside club remains in doubt, and a mammoth red-clad crowd of 95,446 grew restless as the Uruguayan cooled his heels on the bench deep into the second half.
Yet his appearance in the 72nd minute among a raft of substitutions sparked a deafening roar from the terraces, and fans left the hulking coliseum happy after watching the 26-year-old set up the second goal with typical trickery.
Suarez, second top scorer in the Premier League with 23 goals last season, has said he wants to leave Liverpool to play in Spain, blaming the British media for making his life impossible in England.
But despite the heated speculation over his future, he joined up with his team mates in Australia, with his coach Brendan Rodgers playing down talk of a move.
While Suarez dominated the leadup, it was his captain generating the highlights early on a chilly night at the MCG.
Gerrard charged into the area to finish a pinpoint through ball from Joe Allen into the right corner in the 32nd minute after starting the move with an inspired back-heel in midfield.
The Victory, a heavyweight in the local A-League competition, battled hard throughout and denied Liverpool a second goal until seconds before the close.
Suarez received a pass from a corner, darted into the area and effortlessly steered a low cross through heavy traffic to allow Aspas to tap home from close range.
Earlier in the day, Liverpool owner John W. Henry appeared to ridicule Arsenal’s latest bid for Suarez after the Gunners reportedly tabled an offer of just over 40 million pounds for the striker.
The unusual offer of 40 million and one pound was intended to trigger a clause in the Uruguayan international’s contract that says Liverpool must inform the striker of Arsenal’s interest.
Henry said on his verified Twitter account: “What do you think they are smoking over there at Emirates?”
Arsenal have already had one bid for Suarez rejected by Liverpool, who say they are under no obligation to sell the player.
Suarez joined up with Liverpool’s squad on Monday. He still has to serve six matches of his 10-match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic on April 21, but can play in their pre-season friendlies.