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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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Reasons to be cheerful

What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in familiarity. As many have done before them and, no doubt, plenty of others will do in the future, the travelling supporters from Wolverhampton asked: "Where's your famous atmosphere?" Their answer came three times before the final whistle.

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At a club where they celebrate their bona fide heroes and castigate the false idols, it was hard to say which drew the loudest cheer: was it Steven Gerrard's first Anfield appearance for six months, a quite stunning goal by the irrepressible Luis Suarez or the announcement of Fernando Torres' sending-off 200 miles away?

Whichever, revelling in Torres' misfortunes and misdemeanours seems practically a national sport that was invented on Merseyside. Not that they have grounds for complaint. The consequence of his departure was a bout of swift-fire trading which left Liverpool the stronger. As the sales of Torres and Ryan Babel financed the arrivals of Andy Carroll and Suarez, the Spaniard merits some of the credit for the Anfield revival.

Suarez, predictably, was outstanding and Carroll, to greater surprise, impressive, as Wolves were condemned to a third successive league defeat. If the £35 million man's selection appeared proof of Dalglish's obstinate streak, the afternoon ended with the manager being asked if it was their finest performance as a pairing. "I cannae remember," came the deadpan reply. "Certainly this week, I think."

He was more insightful, if exaggerating a little, on the subject of his record buy's display, saying it contained: "Everything but the goal." That almost arrived, Carroll heading a Stewart Downing cross against the post and, as if aiming to emulate his ally in attack, attempting to round defenders for fun in injury time; it is something Suarez does with greater panache.

Three goals in 16 games remains a meagre return and one that is impossible to ignore, but Carroll's contribution extends beyond that. If this represented his finest display of the season, that it is a statement in itself, but progress was evident. Two telling crosses were signs both of the quality of his delivery and a greater mobility that enabled him to get out to the flanks. His huge frame means he has a nuisance value, too: when Wayne Hennessey spilled another Downing cross, and then redeemed himself with a wonderful save to thwart Suarez, it was under pressure from Carroll.

Liverpool's opener was an indirect consequence of his physique, too. Sent off one week, scorer the next, Charlie Adam's tale of redemption was marred by the reality that this was an own goal. When Martin Kelly crossed, Roger Johnson and Carroll collided in mid-air, the ball falling to the Scot. Adam then shot from distance, an effort that was heading wide being redirected by a diving Johnson, heading past Hennessey.

"I thought Roger Johnson was fouled, I thought Carroll barged into him and I was annoyed with that," Wolves manager Mick McCarthy said. It was the nadir of an unpleasant afternoon for his captain. Suarez's dances with Wolves consisted of repeated, and often successful, attempts to humiliate the visiting defenders, as the second goal illustrated.

Wolves erred by attempting to play offside. They failed, Suarez speeding on to Jose Enrique's pass. Instead of taking the obvious approach and shooting straight away, the Uruguayan complicated his task, waiting for Christophe Berra, beating him twice and then scoring.

"He's been outstanding since he came to the football club," Dalglish said. "We are very fortunate to have him and we look forward to many more happy days."

The latest might have been less enjoyable after Steven Fletcher halved the deficit three minutes after his arrival, Hennessey saved superbly from Suarez and Downing and Liverpool failed to add to their advantage.

"I think we deserved three points," added Dalglish. "But we probably played better than that in one of the games we lost, at Stoke." With more demanding tests against Everton and Manchester United beckoning, this contained warning signs, a frailty against the aerial ball in the second half and further indications that, alongside Adam, Lucas has to do the work of two men. However, the cavalry is coming. Gerrard provided reminders of his dynamic best in his cameo.

Whether the crowd should inspire the players or vice versa, in the captain and Suarez, Liverpool possess two players who can generate the atmosphere. And now Chelsea have one, too, as Torres, not for the first time, made Anfield roar.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Luis Suarez - Few players in the Premier League are of such importance to their team. Suarez gives Liverpool their spark and defenders difficulties; his razor-sharp turns left the unfortunate Johnson and Berra looking foolish.

LIVERPOOL VERDICT: The debate about Dalglish's strongest side continues. Downing was excellent and Carroll justified his selection, but the case for Jordan Henderson is weaker. When fully fit, Gerrard should slot in alongside Lucas, but the defence does not yet look watertight.

WOLVES VERDICT: After their encouraging start to the season, it is now a hat-trick of defeats but McCarthy was consoled by an improved performance after a poor showing against QPR. Indeed, Wolves threatened after Fletcher's introduction and a switch to 4-4-2. The downside was that it left the game very open, explaining why the manager had chosen to play five midfielders at the start.

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