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Red-hot Suarez fires Liverpool top Newcastle rout Palace

LONDON, Dec 21, (Agencies): Luis Suarez celebrated his new contract by sending Liverpool to the top of the Premier League thanks to two goals and another virtuoso display in a 3-1 home win over crisis club Cardiff City on Saturday. The irrepressible Uruguayan, who looked to be heading out of Anfield in the close season amid his ban for biting, expertly volleyed in the opener before setting up Raheem Sterling for the second after a superb ball from the resurgent Jordan Henderson. It was soon three when 26-year-old Suarez netted his 19th of the season on halftime with a superb curling shot from the edge of the box following more Henderson magic with a back-heel. Liverpool hammered Tottenham Hotspur 5-0 away last weekend and could have had more against Cardiff with Suarez almost netting a hat-trick when he clipped the post.

The easy win over 15th-placed Cardiff and beleaguered manager Malky Mackay put Liverpool a point clear at the top with 36 from 17 games ahead of previous leaders Arsenal hosting Chelsea on Monday.
Suarez, again captain in the continued absence of the injured Steven Gerrard, penned a reported four-and-a-half year deal on Friday as Liverpool try to build on a strong start and finally challenge for the title again after years of woe.
Facing one of the in-form players in world football was not what Cardiff manager Mackay wanted at the end of a week where reports said he had been asked to resign or be sacked by Malaysian owner Vincent Tan despite gaining promotion.
Cardiff fans should have been enjoying a trip to famous Anfield in their debut Premier League season but instead held up a “Tan Out” banner and booed the controversial shades-wearing tycoon, who has also switched the club kit to red from blue.
The pair had only previously met in the league once in 1959, when Liverpool great Bill Shankly took charge for the first time as Cardiff won 4-0 away. That was never going to happen on Saturday but Jordan Mutch grabbed one back in an improved second half.

Newcastle 3, Palace 0
In London, Newcastle made it six wins in seven games with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Crystal Palace.
Victory leaves the Magpies — whose manager Alan Pardew played for Palace and scored a famous goal for them in an FA Cup semi-final in 1990 which took them to the final — sixth in the table, six points off leaders Liverpool.
Palace — who have not beaten Newcastle at home in their last five meetings now dating back to January 1984 in the old Division Two, when they won 3-1 — stay in the relegation zone, third from bottom.
Palace were under pressure from the start despite the wet conditions which should have suited their more physical approach in contrast to the passing game of the Magpies.
However, the visitors were unable to turn their dominance into goals — Mathieu Debuchy going closest with a header — until Yohan Cabaye popped up in the 25th minute to celebrate his return from a one match ban with a goal.

Cabaye’s shot home after Moussa Sissoko picked him out in the area to make it Newcastle’s 11th successive goal scored by a Frenchman — indeed 21 of their 22 Premier League goals have been scored by Frenchmen with the exception being Paul Dummett of Wales.
However, that run was ended when Palace’s Welsh international defender Danny Gabbidon put Debuchy’s cross past his own ‘keeper Julian Speroni in the 39th minute.
Newcastle were not overly ambitious — save for a Cabaye freekick that tested Speroni — and it was Palace who missed two chances to score as first Marouane Chamakh sent a header over the bar and then Cameron Jerome blasted over from close range.
This stung Newcastle into action as well as the introduction of Hatem Ben Arfa as he immediately produced a sublime piece of skill to tee up Yoann Gouffran, but his shot from outside the area came back off the post.
Ben Arfa had a go himself shortly afterwards but Speroni did well to save with his legs.
However, he could do nothing to prevent the lively former Marseille star from making it 3-0 from the penalty spot after Jonathan Parr fouled Shola Ameobi.

Sunderland 0, Norwich 0
In Sunderland, bottom of the table Sunderland, fresh from their League Cup exploit over Chelsea, were held to a goalless draw by Norwich, a stalemate that extended the Black Cats’ winless league run to six.
Sunderland, who ended the game with 10 men, took to the pitch seeking to follow up their midweek heroics against Chelsea when South Korea’s Ki Sung-Yueng sealed a famous extra time win with his first goal for the club to put Gus Poyet’s team into a League Cup semi-final against Manchester United.
But Sunderland’s league form has been an altogether different story, and they welcomed Norwich stuck at the foot of the table after just two wins and aiming to break a five-game run without a win.
But this point, combined with losses for Fulham and Crystal Palace, saw them at least reduce the deficit on those two teams immediately above them, from four to three points.

Norwich started brightly, striker Gary Hooper miscuing an early shot in front of goal, and then only a neat one-handed save from Sunderland keeper Vito Mannone denying Nathan Redmond’s attempt into the bottom corner on 13 minutes.
Down at the other end Sunderland’s Ki set up Fabio Borini on the break only for the shot from 20 yards to thud into the side netting.
An open first period ended with Mannone doing well to deny a venomous 18 yard strike from Hooper, while on the strike of half time, he kept out Leroy Fer’s side-footed shot.
On the restart both sides continued to find the killer touch elusive but on 70 minutes the deadlock was almost broken when after a corner Wes Brown headed off the right post.
A flurry of missed opportunities including Ki hitting high with goalkeeper John Ruddy stranded out of his goal near the death summed up a frustrating, afternoon which ended on a sour note for the hosts with Brown red carded for a reckless tackle on Ricky van Wolsfwinkel in the third minute of injury time.

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