Maybe we shouldn't get carried away after beating the third-best Belorussian team in the qualifying stage of the Europa League, but it's hard to avoid getting carried away when Liverpool look light years better than last week or in any of the previous preseason matches. Or at almost any stage last season.
Liverpool were dominant from the opening whistle, perpetually in Gomel's half, pressing furiously and winning the ball back within seconds of losing it, dicing through the opposition with clever, quick movement and passes from every angle, seemingly as if they've been doing this forever.
That might have had something to do with the starting line-up. This line-up featured Reina, Suarez, Agger, and Lucas where – no offense meant – last week's had Jones, Cole, Carragher, and Spearing. It's not surprising that it led to an immensely improved performance. Notably, we saw Suarez, Gerrard, Agger, and Lucas all in the starting XI, something that didn't happen in any of last season's 51 matches.
It also might have had something to do with Gerrard playing further forward, returning to the position which helped lead Liverpool to its best season in the last decade. Over the last two years, often playing as a deep-lying playmaker when fit, we've somewhat forgotten just how influential he can be in an advanced position, cleverly linking midfield and attack, crucial to the divine interplay between Suarez and Borini.
And that man Suarez was at his tyrannical, bomb-throwing best, the architect of the two first half goals which killed the tie. The first was a archetypal ankle-breaking byline run after Shelvey intercepted an attempted Gomel clearance and Lucas immediately fed Suarez with a perfectly-placed through ball. Suarez's attempted cross was deflected away after he danced past Kuzmanok, but fell kindly for Borini, thrashing a shot under Bushma for a goal on his Anfield debut. Twenty minutes later, after continued Liverpool command despite two Gomel chances – the only two they had all match, both saved by Reina – Suarez single-handedly destroyed Gomel's center-back pairing, through Kashevski then around Kuzmanok, before centering for a Gerrard tap into an empty net, once again proving the importance of midfield runners following the ball into the box.
Liverpool maintained its dominance after the interval, able to do pretty much whatever they wanted, with Gerrard hitting post within eight minutes of the restart. Even considering this vast improvement, it still wouldn't be a Liverpool match without a strike off the woodwork. Suarez forced a couple more saves from Bushma before Johnson's brilliant individual third, intercepting an attempted clearing header after another Liverpool assault, one touch with his chest, then lashing an unstoppable half-volley with his "weaker" foot. It was the pick of the bunch, and for the second-straight week, a goal that probably would have made my top ten from last season. I'm assuming that's a good omen.
From there, cruise control. Carragher and Adam replaced Skrtel and Shelvey before Spearing came on for Lucas, and we saw the passive, controlling possession that was more expected than the rampage in the first 75 minutes.
Again, all the caveats about the quality of the opposition are both expected and understandable. Still, it's hard not to be overjoyed with Liverpool's style of play. Of course a three-nil win is encouraging, but how that three-nil win came about was even more so. Free-flowing passing and movement; non-stop pressing, winning the ball back in Gomel's half countless times; Gerrard in his best position; Suarez at his best – both in attacking creativity and in defending from the front. Borini scored in his first match, Johnson was another contender for man of the match, Shelvey rarely looked out of place, Liverpool's central defense was almost never threatened, and Lucas again demonstrated his overwhelming importance. Not to bring last season's prejudices into this one, but even Downing looked a wholly different player: providing dangerous crosses with his left and right foot, combining excellently with the superlative Glen Johnson, and moving off the ball – which has been the biggest criticism of his Liverpool performances to date.
This was what we needed to see prior to next Saturday's league opener against West Brom. That, and many other matches, almost assuredly won't go so smoothly, but we got a concrete glimpse of this side's potential under its new manager.