In Pictures: Sunderland 1-3 Liverpool
Two-goal Luis Suarez in fine form up front with Daniel Sturridge
Liverpool put to bed any suggestions Luis Suarez couldn't partner with Daniel Sturridge after the duo combined to overcome Sunderland 3-1.
The Uruguay international, back in the fold after completing a 10-match suspension, needed just 37 minutes to find his way on to the scoresheet when he made the most of a flowing move to tap home from close range, and then celebrated by revealing a tee-shirt dedicated to his family.
Strike-partner Daniel Sturridge had given the visitors the lead by bundling home a 28th-minute Steven Gerrard corner with referee Howard Webb failing to spot that the ball had gone in off his arm, and it was he who set up Suarez to make it 3-1 at the death.
However, managerless Sunderland, who had earlier hit the bar through Sebastian Larsson, more than played their part in the game and got themselves back into it when Emanuele Giaccherini pulled a goal back seven minutes after the restart.
There was as much focus before kick-off on the man who occupied Liverpool's number seven shirt as there was on the search for a replacement for the man who no longer occupied a seat on the Sunderland bench.
That process is ongoing with chief executive Margaret Byrne using her programme notes to inform the club's fans that talks have taken place with several candidates, and that there will be discussions with more this week.
Interim head coach Kevin Ball, who has put himself forward as a candidate, launched his temporary reign with a Capital One Cup victory over Peterborough on Tuesday night, and kept faith with the 11 men who brought a measure of normality back to the club after a chaotic few weeks.
Once again, they produced a performance which combined character, organisation and some intent.
Unfortunately for them, however, they came face to face with a team which boasted significantly more potent weapons than those in the Posh armoury.
There was little to choose between the sides during the early exchanges and Larsson came close to giving the home side a 24th-minute lead when his free-kick beat former team-mate Simon Mignolet, but came back off the bar.
Wide-men Giaccherini and Adam Johnson were causing problems for the Reds, as was bustling striker Jozy Altidore.
However, it was Liverpool, who had seen an earlier Martin Skrtel effort ruled out for offside, who got their noses in front four minutes later, although in controversial circumstances.
Central defender Kolo Toure only just failed to make meaningful contact with Steven Gerrard's left-wing corner, but Sturridge smuggled the ball over the line, although replays revealed with more than a little help from his right arm.
But the visitors' second goal was a thing of beauty, Gerrard picking out Sturridge with a raking 37th-minute pass and watching the striker sweep past Carlos Cuellar before drilling in a cross for Suarez to steer home at the far post.
The Black Cats left the pitch at half-time perhaps aggrieved to be two down having created chances of their own, the best of them falling to full-back Craig Gardner with a minute of the first 45 remaining.
Lee Cattermole's deft pass over the top put Gardner in on goal and it took a fine reaction save by Mignolet to keep out his first-time effort.
Suarez picked up where he had left off after the break, winning a 48th-minute corner with a deflected shot and then firing across goal from the resulting set-piece.
But the Black Cats continued to battle for a way back into the game and found it with 52 minutes gone when Mignolet could only parry Ki Sung-yueng's long-range drive and Giaccherini pounced on the rebound to score.
Mignolet redeemed himself two minutes later when he dived to his right to push away a dipping Gardner effort as it sped through a crowded penalty area with the home side very much back in the game.
The Belgium international proved equal to the task when Altidore let fly from distance with 62 minutes played, but opposite number Keiren Westwood had to acrobatically turn away Victor Moses' stinging right-foot shot from a tight angle five minutes later.
Suarez passed up a chance to claim a second goal of the afternoon with 18 minutes remaining when Cuellar did just enough to prevent him from converting Enrique's inviting cross, and Cattermole denied him once again two minutes later with a good block.
But the South American was not finished and having picked out Sturridge with a fine 89th-minute pass, he made his way into the box to convert his cross and seal victory.
Sturridge plays down Reds surge
Liverpool forward Daniel Sturridge has refused to get carried away by their strong start to the Barclays Premier League season.
The Reds moved up to second in the standings after a 3-1 win at managerless Sunderland, with Sturridge opening the scoring before two goals from Luis Suarez - either side of Emanuele Giaccherini's effort for the Black Cats - sealing victory.
It was the Merseysiders' fourth win in six league matches, but Sturridge played down their hopes of challenging for the title.
"It's early days, take every day as it comes. Don't worry about the future, worry about the here and now," he said on Sky Sports 1.
"I don't think we played as well as we could have in the first half, even though we were 2-0 up, but it was very difficult in the second half.
"We took our foot off the pedal a little bit and once they scored a goal it got a bit more difficult for us but we held on in the end.
"We defended well towards the end of the game and then got a late goal, which killed it off."
Sturridge opened the scoring in controversial fashion, with the ball taking a heavy deflection off his arm before nestling in the net.
The England man defended his actions, however, adding: "It's a great ball from Stevie, it's gone over the defender's head and it was last minute, I've obviously tried to head it but I guess my heading's not good enough.
"The ball's just gone in off my arm but I wouldn't do that on purpose. Sometimes these things happen."
Suarez netted a brace on his first Premier League outing since his 10-game ban and Sturridge believes the Uruguayan's presence can only help Liverpool this season.
"It's great to have him back in, he gives us options and he's one of the best forwards in the league. We form a good partnership," said the former Manchester City and Chelsea striker.
"We miss Philippe Coutinho, with his injury, we've got some great players in this team and I'm happy to be playing with them."
Rodgers praises Suarez and Sturridge
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers was also delighted to have Suarez back in the fold.
The 26-year-old made his competitive return in the 1-0 Capital One Cup defeat at Manchester United in midweek, playing the entire 90 minutes.
While he drew a blank at Old Trafford, Suarez was a constant thorn in United's side and underlined his importance to Liverpool's cause with his brace against Sunderland.
"He's getting the reward for his hard work over the period that he was off. I thought he was excellent the other night at Old Trafford," Rodgers said on Sky Sports 1.
"Him and Daniel up front are a real, real handful. They combined very well."
The Northern Irishman was pleased Liverpool were able to bounce back from their defeat to David Moyes' men.
"On the back of a really tough game where we played well during the week, today was always going to be physically demanding game for us," he added.
"I thought the work we put into it was exceptional and to get the three goals and maybe a few more chances to score a few more.
"I thought we were really dangerous on the counter-attack and as a team we worked really, really hard."
Belfast Telegraph Digital