Carroll on song as Liverpool blow away Manchester City
Liverpool 3 Man City 0: Andy Carroll finally repaid the first chunk of that massive £35m price tag as he scored two of the goals that helped Liverpool condemn Manchester City to their worst possible preparation for Saturday's FA Cup semi-final.
A disastrous evening for the Blues that put their top-four hopes in the balance again was made worse as Carlos Tevez suffered a hamstring injury that seems certain to rule him out of the Wembley showdown with old club Manchester United.
None of this will bother Carroll.
Signed as the replacement for Fernando Torres, the 22-year-old has got his name on the scoresheet before the Spaniard.
In a superb all-round performance, he lashed home a first in quite brilliant fashion after only 12 minutes and was credited with another when Aleksandar Kolarov's header bounced off the Geordie and into the net.
Between those two, Dirk Kuyt also struck, leaving City beaten and bruised.
With Torres in Manchester ahead of Chelsea's Champions League clash with United at Old Trafford and Edin Dzeko in Roberto Mancini's starting line-up, three players who cost a combined fee of £112million during the January transfer window were within a 35-mile radius.
That they had not scored a combined Premier League goal between them has been a subject of intense debate.
By half-time, Carroll had two.
The first was a beauty.
Luis Suarez had already seen a shot touched onto the post by Joe Hart when Raul Meireles let fly with a long-range shot that crashed into Vincent Kompany.
The ball ricocheted straight to Carroll, whose first-time effort was hit with far too much power for Hart to keep it out.
Anfield erupted. Yet it was only the start.
When Kompany got himself in the way of a Fabio Aurelio effort, he could only divert the ball across the area, straight into the path of a gleeful Kuyt, who joyfully sent a precise finish into the bottom corner.
As a shellshocked City struggled to clear their heads, Liverpool struck again.
This time Meireles swept a cross to the far post after Dedryck Boyata had lost possession deep inside his own half. Kolarov won the aerial duel with Carroll, but it was a measure of City's evening that the Serb merely headed the ball against the man he was marking, from where it looped into the net.
Yet potentially, the worst moment of all came in the minutes after Carroll's opener when Tevez pulled up with what he indicated was a hamstring injury.
City's stunned fans could only hope it was a precautionary move. The reality seems certain to be rather more depressing.
Kuyt came agonisingly close to twisting the knife a little bit deeper when he flicked a header narrowly wide of the City goal at the start of the second period.
Given they were in the process of amassing 13 points against the current top four, it did beg the question why have Liverpool been performing quite so badly against the Premier League's lesser lights.
That was a reflective point though.
Yaya Toure brought a decent save out of Pepe Reina with a 35-yard thunderbolt towards the end.
Carroll almost had the last word when he looped a header onto the roof of the net before departing to a standing ovation near the end.