LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Luis Suarez marked his new Liverpool contract with two goals on Saturday to send his team provisionally top of the Premier League with a 3-1 victory over Cardiff.
The Uruguay striker's first-half double took his tally to a Premier League season-leading 19 goals despite missing the first five games while banned for biting. On the eve of the match, Suarez signed a new Liverpool deal through 2018.
Between Suarez's strikes, Raheem Sterling also scored for Liverpool, and Jordon Mutch scored Cardiff's only goal in the second half. Liverpool moved a point ahead of Arsenal, which plays Chelsea on Monday.
The loss will likely further weaken coach Malky Mackay's grip on the Cardiff job amid a power struggle with owner Vincent Tan, who was at Anfield. Mackay said after the game that he would not resign despite being told told by Tan earlier in the week to leave or be fired.
Fuelled by Suarez's goals, Liverpool has now overtaken long-time leaders Arsenal, which faces fellow top-four side Chelsea on Monday. With the season almost halfway through Liverpool must now be classed as credible rivals to Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea. Brendan Rodgers' side must face both City and Chelsea in their next two matches but with Suarez in this form the Reds can go into the games with confidence.
Suarez has 19 goals in 12 league matches, including 10 in his last four games, and he set a Premier League record with his first goal, which was his ninth in December. Suarez scored his first against Cardiff in the 25th minute after running towards the penalty area where Jordan Henderson picked him out with an inviting cross which was expertly volleyed past goalkeeper David Marshall.
That maintained Suarez's record of scoring in every home match — six in total — he has been available for this season, having been suspended early on. Cue the inevitable Liverpool onslaught which saw Martin Skrtel head over, Sterling have a shot blocked and Jon Flanagan and Philippe Coutinho both hit the post, with the latter's effort only just kept out by the outstretched boot of Marshall.
It seemed despite Liverpool's dominance, its lead would be a slender one at the break but three minutes before the interval the hosts struck again, thanks to their two best players in recent weeks. Henderson's through-ball was superb in itself but no surprise considering his improved quality this season. Suarez, with only Marshall to beat, instead squared the ball for Sterling to slot home.
Suarez's second of the game came after Henderson's backheel was all the invitation the Uruguayan needed as he opened his body to curl a shot around a pack of bodies in the penalty area and inside Marshall's left-hand post in the 45th for Liverpool to go 3-0 ahead.
The second half should have been a procession for the home side but that was interrupted by Mutch's unchallenged header from a free kick in the 58th minute. Cardiff subsequently enjoyed its best spell of the game but that was ended when Sterling forced Marshall to save in a one-on-one and Suarez followed up to blast a shot against the post.