Luis Suarez┬áemerged from the bench to create┬áLiverpool’s second goal as the Reds secured a 2-0 victory over┬áMelbourne Victory┬áin the second game of their three-match tour of Southeast Asia and Oceania.
Steven Gerrard converted from inside the box on the half-hour mark to give Brendan Rodgers’ side a first-half lead before Suarez emerged to a standing ovation and laid on a tap-in for Iago Aspas.
The Uruguayan dazzled the Australian crowd with some trademark touches and spins during his short cameo but cannot be described as displaying the body language of a man excited to be involved in the Merseyside club’s build-up to the new season.┬áCiting tiredness, Rodgers left Suarez on the bench┬áfollowing a new bid from Arsenal for the Uruguay striker, so Fabio Borini led the line between Raheem Sterling and Jordon Ibe.
With Pepe Reina reportedly set to join Napoli, Brad Jones started in goal in his home country and Reina’s likely replacement, Simon Mignolet, joined Suarez among the substitutes.
The distance between the pitch and the crowd at the 95,000-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground did not prevent the considerable number of Reds fans present from performing a rousing rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone before kick-off, but Rodgers’ players were somewhat slower off the mark.
Liverpool quickly took hold of possession against the under-strength hosts but Melbourne defended well and began to construct some promising attacks of their own.┬áSterling missed the target with two speculative efforts either side of confident work from Victory left winger Connor Pain, who narrowly missed an unmarked team-mate with a cut-back into the box.
Jones and his opposite number Nathan Coe were tested for the first time around the 20-minute mark by Andrew Nabbout and Gerrard, whose respective 20-yard efforts were saved comfortably.┬áThe Liverpool captain made no mistake with his next chance. After tenacious work from Borini, Allen was allowed to run at the home defence and looked to pick out the Italian on the edge of the box.
Instead, his curved pass drifted through to┬áGerrard, who had continued his run from deep after a clever dummy earlier in the move. He swept a first-time shot from 12 yards into the bottom corner.
The second half was a more subdued affair. Coe tipped Martin Skrtel’s near-post header from a Gerrard corner over the bar before the centre-back was called into action in his own box, sliding to clear Pain’s low cross with Nabbout lurking.┬áHis team-mates appeared to be tiring but Pain remained lively, forcing Jones to awkwardly parry one vicious left-footed drive, while Borini was enjoying his most productive spell of the game and saw an overhead kick loop just wide of the post.
Suarez was finally introduced with less than 20 minutes to go and, apparently unaffected by a summer of speculation and controversial interviews, was awarded a standing ovation by the Liverpool supporters.┬áHe and nine other substitutes – the 11th, Lucas Leiva, had replaced Gerrard slightly earlier – saw out the final stages and┬áAspas┬áadded a second after Suarez had snaked into the box from a short corner.