Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Bad-boy Suarez denies Blues

Luis Suarez, left, who bit Branislav Ivanovic, netted a last-minute equaliser for Liverpool

The spotlight was supposed to have been reserved for former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez on his first appearance back at Anfield but Reds striker Luis Suarez upstaged him with a bizarre biting incident and the latest of late equalisers in the 2-2 draw with Chelsea.

Benitez was denied a victorious return to the scene of many of his former glories by player of the year candidate Suarez who ensured the focus was all on him - again. It would not have been until, with Chelsea 2-1 up thanks to Oscar's header and Eden Hazard's penalty either side of Daniel Sturridge's equaliser, he chose to sink his teeth into Branislav Ivanovic as the pair tangled in the penalty area.

Referee Kevin Friend missed the incident and despite the Chelsea defender's protests no action was taken. Suarez's equalising goal with virtually the last kick of the game in the sixth and final minute of added time will probably be forgotten in the furore which is to follow.

For such an odd incident Suarez has previous, having served a seven-match ban for biting PSV Eindhoven midfielder Otman Bakkal while playing for Ajax immediately prior to his move to Liverpool in January 2011.

The 26-year-old is no stranger to controversy, having been sent off for a goalline handball in a World Cup quarter-final, suspended for eight matches for racially abusing Patrice Evra and admitting to diving earlier this season. It was even his handball which resulted in Chelsea's match-winning penalty and it seems inevitable the Football Association will be contacting him again.

Benitez remains a hugely divisive figure and that was highlighted no better than with his stepping back out into Anfield for the first time nearly three years after leaving. Supporters warmly welcomed the man viewed as a returning hero in these parts - the only ones not applauding were those from Chelsea whose objections to the Spaniard directly result from his red roots.

Chelsea's opening goal was courtesy of a near-post header by Brazil international Oscar who managed to out-fox Daniel Agger and then beat Jose Reina inside his left-hand post.

At half-time Philippe Coutinho was replaced by Sturridge - bought from Chelsea in January - and he instantly changed the dynamic. His first run put Steven Gerrard clean through - only for Petr Cech to deflect the shot wide with his legs - and then he smashed a 25-yard effort against the post.

But the England striker did brilliantly to get his feet in the right position to convert an awkward chance from Suarez's far post cross in the 52nd minute. Liverpool's bubble was burst pretty quickly, however, as when Suarez handled defending a Juan Mata corner Hazard stroked home from the spot.

They continued to press but the closest they came to puncturing a hole in Chelsea's defence, apart from Suarez's teeth, was when substitute Jonjo Shelvey fired into the side-netting. However, Suarez produced another talking point by heading home Sturridge's cross with the clock showing 96 minutes and 34 seconds.