Reds revisit past to look forward
In the presence of one predecessor and with the spectre of another looming large even in his absence, Brendan Rodgers' Anfield debut was a one-sided game that doubled up as a tale of three Liverpool managers.
Roy Evans was the first on the famous pitch, making a presentation to Jamie Carragher to commemorate the 700th Liverpool appearance of a man whose career has spanned very different eras.
Next to be name-checked was Kenny Dalglish. That staple of the Anfield songbook, the deep, devoted chorus of "Dalglish", was first aired seven minutes into his replacement's reign on home turf. The loyalty to a legend remains, and understandably so. The newcomer was not serenaded but, if the backdrop suggested Rodgers is a young pretender in the shadow of the King, the action indicated another Merseyside monarch may be in the making.
This was Anfield's first glimpse of Rodgers' vision and, like the 180-page dossier he showed owners Fenway Sports Group in his job interview, it illustrated his persuasiveness. FC Gomel's obvious limitations mean that this was scarcely an examination of Liverpool's credentials, but the manner of the win made for an impressive statement of intent.
"I thought the players were excellent," Rodgers said. His belief in passing is well known but, on a night more notable for Usain Bolt's speed, it was fitting that the dominant theme was pace. Luis Suarez, Liverpool's slaloming sprinter, was quick to make his mark in a dynamic display.
He was the animated tip of a vibrant diamond, flanked by Fabio Borini and Stewart Downing and backed up by Steven Gerrard. The Italian's role is particularly instructive. More striker than winger, he ghosts into the space Suarez vacates. So, too, does Gerrard, two scorers benefiting from the Uruguayan's incessant movement.
"Luis Suarez is an incredible player," Rodgers added. "That's the type of player I love. He is in love with football." Suarez was singled out for his contribution without the ball too. "I was very pleased with the pressing," the manager explained. "In order for my teams to pass well, you have to press well. Two of the three goals came from that."
This was defence serving as attack, whereas at Swansea, perpetual possession proved a way of keeping clean sheets. It was the more progressive blueprint Liverpool wanted, albeit not the style of play their record buy requires. "The movement and interchanging of the front four was terrific," Rodgers said, providing reasons why it is hard to envisage Andy Carroll being anything other than a fringe player.
The £35 million man was given a standing ovation by the Kop when he warmed up and they pleaded with another favourite, Daniel Agger, to stay but one certain to figure in Liverpool's future was sat in the directors' box: Joe Allen, set to complete his transfer from Swansea on Friday.
It is part of a reunion for alumni of the Liberty Stadium. Perhaps fittingly for a new regime, the first Anfield goal was scored by Rodgers' first signing. Borini, who had worked with the Northern Irishman at both Chelsea and Swansea, volleyed in after further evidence of Suarez's elusive irrepressibility. The Uruguayan wriggled away from a marker, delivered a cross that a second defender, the stretching Nikolai Kashevski, failed to clear, and the Italian drilled in.
Glen Johnson smashes home his goal
A Suarez surge set up the second, too, the forward occupying defence and goalkeeper alike to leave Gerrard with a tap in for his 150th Liverpool goal. The pick of the goals came from the least likely scorer, Glen Johnson rifling home from 20 yards to conclude the scoring emphatically.
"It was certainly a good marker for us," Rodgers added. This competition can have such benefits before a tough start to the Premier League campaign. Admittedly, another outsider parachuted into Anfield was granted a similarly soft landing by the Europa League and then floundered in tougher tests. Two years ago, Roy Hodgson began seemingly encouragingly against FC Rabotnicki, but the similarities between then and now are superficial.
There are other historic parallels. By appointing an Ulsterman as manager, as they first did in 1892, Liverpool have come full circle. And yet, while they revisited their past in other respects, this was the start of something new, something different and something that has brought a touch of Swansea to the Mersey.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Luis Suarez - The Uruguayan's extended, improved contract may be seen an endorsement of Rodgers and FSG. Certainly it is a boost for Liverpool. On an evening when he reiterated his importance, the only criticism is a familiar one: he failed to score.
LIVERPOOL VERDICT: Rodgers' side is taking shape, which seems bad news for Carragher, Carroll, Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson, who all started on the bench in what looked close to his first-choice XI. Jonjo Shelvey seems the man to make way for Allen while Lucas, appearing at Anfield for the first time since November, continued his comeback. Typically, he was quietly effective as others stole the headlines.
FC GOMEL VERDICT: Third in the Belarusian league, attention can now turn to their pursuit of leaders BATE Borisov. They may have deserved a result in the first leg but they did not on this occasion. To their credit, however, they never capitulated in the face of constant pressure and were generously applauded by the Anfield crowd.