And it should have been more. Potential in action. The frightening thing is that there's still plenty of room for improvement.
Liverpool's formation looked more like the 4-2-2-2 that faced Sunderland at Anfield rather than the 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 at Arsenal. There's so much interchange among the front four, even the front five, that the above diagram doesn't do the side justice, let alone writing it up as I used to do. Suarez and Kuyt alternated dropping deep and floated across the entirety of Bolton's half. Henderson came inside, especially when Bolton somehow had possession, making it more of a midfield three. Downing both stayed wide to cross and cut in, providing space for Enrique to over-lap more than in the last two matches.
And as against Sunderland, it didn't take long to convert early dominance into a goal, with Henderson wrapping up a wonderful team strike in the 15th. Suarez again played creator, with an inch-perfect deep cross nearly setting up Downing's first for the club, well-saved by Jaaskelainen. But Kuyt was quickest and strongest, reacting first to lay off for Henderson, brilliantly cutting onto his left and nestling the ball into the net. It was an excellent example of what each offers: Suarez's peerless creativity, Downing's attacking guile, Kuyt's workrate and selfless, and Henderson's versatility and ability to make dangerous runs into the box.
Suarez (twice) and Kuyt had chances to get a quick second; their failure to do so begat another (more frightening) parallel with the Sunderland match. Martin Kelly's 30th-minute injury – hamstring, again – also threatened to throw a wrench into the era of good feelings, forcing a rejig with Skrtel at right back without Flanagan on the bench. Truthfully, Bolton had responded earlier, with Petrov's blast from nowhere stinging Reina's palms and then thanks to Coyle's intelligent change, bringing on the more-dynamic Mark Davies for Muamba. But other than Petrov's dangerous corner nearly setting up Cahill, Liverpool remained comfortable.
Unlike against Sunderland, half-time only proved beneficial to the home side. Eight minutes later, Liverpool were three up as Adam assisted and scored within a minute. First, one of those renowned corners found Skrtel's bullet head (beating Zat Knight far too easily), his second set play assist in three games. Then, he proved his right leg's for more than standing, charging forward from Kuyt's centered pass and placing a shot past Jaaskelainen.
Three quick efforts followed – Kuyt headed onto the roof of the net, Suarez shot into the side-netting, and Downing's strike was deflected wide – but Liverpool were increasingly content to contain and counter. Suarez nearly ran his legs off in search of the goal he felt harshly denied; in addition to an earlier non-call, when Knight evidently tripped Suarez (initially looking like Suarez had dived), Probert missed a second possible penalty and a clear back pass, both prompted by the Uruguayan's devilish movement. That Suarez stomped off in the 78th without scoring his third in three games seems wholly unfair, but he wasn't even at his best today. Possibly the best player on the pitch. But not his best.
Carroll replaced his frequent strike partner, while Maxi came on for Henderson. Another flurry followed, with Carroll caught flat-footed on Downing's whipped cross, Kuyt attempting to play Downing in instead of controlling and shooting, and Skrtel (!!!) seeing two shots blocked on his charging overlap. But with both sides seemingly happy to just go home, Carragher's unfortunate mistake allowed Bolton a last-second consolation, somehow putting Petrov through before his recovery tackle set Klasnic up perfectly. Reina, unsurprisingly, was livid.
Bolton, poor on the day, were truly lucky to only lose by two. We saw more of the tantalizing moments previewed against Sunderland and Arsenal. Suarez continues to be one of the most dangerous players in the league. Lucas is indescribably important, again brilliant in scything down potential attacks. Henderson was much improved, with a well-taken goal added to better movement and touch; his versatility, switching from the right side in the 4-2-2-2 to the middle in the 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 we saw against Arsenal, will continue to be underrated for some time. And special mention goes to Skrtel, almost completely untroubled at right back, scoring on a set play and even joining the attack on occasion, notably those bruising moments ten minutes from time. That helps dispel those memories of Martin at right back three years ago in Middlesbrough.
The elephant in the room remains Liverpool's largest player (at least until Seb Coates signs sooner rather than later). Once again, Liverpool simply looked better without Carroll in the side, with the added handicap of the striker off the pace after coming off the bench. His adaptation will require patience, but at his best (which we've seen in maybe one match), he'll continue to offer something few players in the Premiership are capable of.
Otherwise, it was a remarkable performance from the home side. Kelly's injury, as with Meireles' against Exeter, is the lone concern. And as against Exeter, the consolation, while unfortunate, can be explained away as a one-off mistake – which we hope to see no more of. Progress, especially from new players, is coming quicker than expected.
That Liverpool are top of the league after three games matters little. However, that Liverpool have more points after three games than they did after eight games last year matters much more.