Ibrahim’s Review of 2015

Here we go again. Another annual review. My seventh actually. A great opportunity to reflect on a rollercoaster twelve months. As rollercoaster rides come, this has been quite a thrilling one. Sometimes a thriller doesn’t quite go the way you want it to. We’ve all seen a crazy game of football littered with goals – some may recall Liverpool’s 4-3 win over Newcastle United in 1996. Pundits and commentators argue that was the greatest match the Premier League has ever seen. Almost twenty years…

Look at me, harking on about the past. History can be interesting though. Ask my mother, she’ll tell you. Anyway, let’s get this show on the road as I share some of my highlights of 2015 with you…

Ibrahim reads an excerpt from his mother's novel Lascar at the Bishopsgate Library in London
Ibrahim reads an excerpt from his mother’s novel ‘Lascar’ at the Bishopsgate Institute, London

In January, my mother and I were invited to speak at the Everyday Muslim Symposium, held at the Bishopsgate Institute in London. It was a wonderful event to be part of and I really enjoyed the occasion, despite my reading skills being closely scrutinised by an attentive audience – and captured on camera! Many thanks to Sadiya Ahmed and Halima Khanom for giving me the opportunity to participate. You can watch my mother’s talk and my reading right here:

In February, I joined the team of presenters for a sports show on Cambridge 105, a local radio station based in Cambridge. Since August, I have been the lead presenter and producer of the new series. The show has covered local, national and global sport, and is aired every Saturday afternoon. This year, I interviewed a range of guests including Aziz Rahman and Shahin Miah of Cambridge Sporting Football Club, as well as the nation’s youngest restaurant/takeaway owner Safwaan Choudhury and Nurun Ahmed – a former contestant on the popular BBC TV series The Apprentice.

Ibrahim interviewed Safwaan Choudhury and Nurun Ahmed on Cambridge 105 Sport
Ibrahim interviewed Safwaan Choudhury and Nurun Ahmed on Cambridge 105 Sport

You can listen to all the interviews on my brand-new Soundcloud page! I have really enjoyed hosting the show this year. Many thanks to my fellow team members Jack Swindlehurst, Jack LangleyTim Ebanks and Sam Tunbridge for all your help and support. Special thanks to Tim Willett, the station manager, for giving me the opportunity to be involved. It has been a pleasure to be part of Cambridge 105 and I hope the station continues to go from strength to strength.

Shaful Islam, Bobby Friction and Ibrahim Rahman
With quiz team-mate Shaful Islam (left) and BBC Asian Network presenter Bobby Friction (centre)

2015 also witnessed a memorable ICC Cricket World Cup, particularly for Bangladesh who reached the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time. Unfortunately for England it was a tournament to forget, as they failed to qualify from their group.

In March, I ventured to the West Midlands to appear on a live BBC Asian Network show. I was on the Bobby Friction show and represented Team Bangladesh in a cricket quiz! It was great fun and we did pretty well – scoring 9/10! Many thanks to the production team and Bobby for having me. Shaf Islam was a top team-mate as well! You can listen to our performance (and all the banter) through the audio clip below:

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Ramadan Roundup 4 was nominated for the 2015 Limelight Film Awards
Ramadan Roundup 4 was nominated for the 2015 Limelight Film Awards

It was a great year for Ramadan Roundup, as the latest episode of the series was nominated for a national film award. I attended this year’s Limelight Film Awards in June. Unfortunately, Ramadan Roundup 4 didn’t win the award but it was very humbling to have been shortlisted. News of the nomination was covered on local radio station Cambridge 105, newspapers East London News, London Bangla and Cambridge News, and on television through Islam Channel. You can watch our Ramadan Roundup interview with Raza Amode and myself right here:

Once again, a massive thank you to everyone for your support and to those who have contributed to the series. Unfortunately my plans for producing Ramadan Roundup 5 this year did not go ahead as I had hoped. Having said that, the episode is still in pre-production and I hope to continue working on it next year. God willing.

On the other hand, I can confirm that I have just started to film Ramadan Roundup 4.5, a mini-episode that is linked to Ramadan Roundup 4 but leads on to Ramadan Roundup 5. More news to come very soon, but do keep your eyes peeled on the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for more updates! The adventure continues…

Ramadan Roundup 4.5 is in production...
Ramadan Roundup 4.5 is in production…

Ibrahim was a contributor to the BBC's Ramadan in a Day project
Ibrahim was a contributor to the BBC’s Ramadan in a Day project

In July, I was one of the contributors for the Ramadan in a Day project, a BBC Taster experiment delivered in partnership with BBC Asian Network. The project set out to capture a day of life during Ramadan, giving people the chance to tell their own stories through social media. I appeared in a series of videos that you can still watch on the BBC Asian Network YouTube channel. Check out one of the clips right here:

Ibrahim at the Asian Media Awards 2015
Ibrahim at the Asian Media Awards 2015

In September, I was shortlisted as a finalist in the Regional Journalist of the Year category at the Asian Media Awards 2015. I attended the official shortlist announcement at the ITV Studios in London, before making the very long trip to the Hilton Manchester Deansgate for the main showpiece in October. Unfortunately I missed out on the award, but I was really humbled to have been chosen as a finalist under a brand-new category at this year’s awards. It was a fantastic occasion.

Ibrahim's Profile - page 53 of the Asian Media Awards 2015 brochure
Ibrahim’s profile was listed in the Asian Media Awards 2015 brochure

And there you have it. My biggest moments in 2015 in a nutshell. Now, I’m going to sit in front of my clock and stare at it until it strikes twelve. Analogue or digital you ask? Don’t bother asking, that’s a very boring thing to do. Also time-consuming. Go ahead and laugh, you know that was funny…

As 2015 draws to a close, I shall leave you with this quote:

“The more difficult it is to reach your destination, the more you will remember and appreciate the journey.”

This year has been thrilling and memorable. A massive thank you to all of you for your support and kindness. I wrote in my last annual review hoping this year would be a great year for you all, and I really hope it has been.

Thank you for following my adventures this year. Let’s see what happens in 2016. Let the journey continue.


Rahman Red Reflection: Impressive Irons Hammer Lacklustre Liverpool

Liverpool were well beaten by a powerful West Ham United, inflicting a third defeat in five league games on Brendan Rodgers’ side.

The Reds failed to cope with their opponents’ fast start, scoring twice through Winston Reid and Diafra Sakho in the opening seven minutes. Liverpool halved the deficit through Raheem Sterling who lashed in the rebound for his third goal of the season, after Mario Balotelli’s attempt had initially been blocked. The Reds pressed hard in search of an equaliser, only to be continually thwarted by Hammers keeper Adrian but this left them vulnerable to the counter attack and their misery was soon complete. Morgan Amalfitano jumped off the bench to apply a late clinical finish and secure West Ham’s first home win this season.

It was a dreadful display from Liverpool. They never looked settled and West Ham exploited their weaknesses. Looking at the defence, there is a serious lack of organisation and leadership. Dejan Lovren has had a shaky start to life at Anfield and Mamadou Sakho has also struggled in recent games. Alberto Moreno and Javier Manquillo have been hit and miss so far. These defensive frailties, however, are not new and you only need to look at last season to see the number of goals they conceded. Too many.

Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge were so important in the previous campaign but there is little point saying Liverpool are missing the Uruguayan. First of all, it’s obvious that any team would miss someone with his qualities. Secondly, he is still banned so he wouldn’t have played anyway. The bottom line is he no longer plays for Liverpool. Focus on the players who are actually in the squad. Move on.

Sturridge’s absence is clearly hurting Liverpool at the moment and he should be returning very soon. I hope he can hit the ground running straight away as Mario Balotelli, Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert have yet to score in the league.

They are also really missing Joe Allen, a player who is accomplished with the ball at his feet but works very hard to reclaim possession for his team. Liverpool are missing his tenacity, energy and excellent workrate.

The Reds are lacking that spark at the moment and hopefully Sturridge’s comeback will reignite their attack. It’s still early days but three losses in their first five league games is worrying. Liverpool face Middlesbrough in the 3rd round of the Capital One Cup at Anfield and it seems inevitable that Rodgers will make plenty of changes, but I hope he fields a strong starting eleven as they need to return to winning ways quickly.

The Merseyside derby is not far away…

Rahman Red Reflection: Vivacious Villa Emerge Victorious

Gabriel Agbonlahor’s ninth-minute strike for Aston Villa was enough to punish a lifeless Liverpool and secure three well-deserved points for the visitors.

Brendan Rodgers was forced to reshuffle his pack as Daniel Sturridge, Joe Allen and Emre Can were confined to the sidelines after picking up injuries during international duty, handing Anfield debuts to Adam Lallana, Mario Balotelli, Lazar Markovic and Alberto Moreno. The Reds fell behind after failing to deal with a corner, allowing Villa striker Agbonlahor to prod the ball in from close range. Liverpool continued to show nervousness from set pieces and could easily have conceded more goals. As the match wore on, Liverpool dominated possession but the away side were rarely troubled. Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan was hardly tested as Rodgers’ side mustered eighteen shots in total – with only one shot on target.

Daniel Sturridge’s absence was clearly felt in this game. He is a peripheral figure for Liverpool and they need him to return to fitness as soon as possible. I was also surprised that Raheem Sterling was on the bench – Rodgers was clearly looking towards Tuesday’s Champions League group match against Ludogorets Razgrad. I wouldn’t want to place so much pressure on his young shoulders as he is only 19 but I would have started him for this match, especially as our recent record at home against Aston Villa has been poor. Did he not get enough time to rest after returning from international duty? When I saw Rodgers’ team selection, I initially thought that Sterling could come on later in the game and make a positive impact but sadly for Liverpool, this did not happen on this occasion.

Adam Lallana made his first appearance of the season and I thought he played relatively well. He was replaced on the hour mark and was lacking match sharpness, but he showed glimpses of his qualities and a sign of things to come. The former Southampton skipper needs a good run of games and hopefully it will not be long until Liverpool see the types of displays that led to his acquisition from the south coast.

Mario Balotelli struggled to make an impact and was on the receiving end of some rough treatment from the opposing defenders. It was a difficult game for the Italian but he was good at holding the ball up and spreading the play to the wide players. Balotelli created a good chance for Lallana – his low drive from distance flashing just wide of Guzan’s near post.

Overall, it was a poor Liverpool performance but Aston Villa deserve great credit for their victory. Paul Lambert’s side were organised, stubborn, disciplined and had frustrated the Reds on a disappointing evening at Anfield.

Bring on the Champions League!

Rahman Red Reflection: Moreno of the Same Please?

Last Sunday, Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool returned to winning ways with an impressive 3-0 away win over Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur. Mario Balotelli produced a lively display on his Reds debut, presented with excellent chances but unable to convert them into goals. However, his inaccuracies were insignificant as Liverpool delivered another brilliant attacking display at White Hart Lane.

The Reds gained an early lead when Raheem Sterling slotted in at the far post – Daniel Sturridge identified Jordan Henderson’s clever forward burst, who unselfishly squared across the face of the goal for the 19-year-old to steer past Hugo Lloris. Spurs right-back Eric Dier conceded a spot-kick for tugging back Joe Allen, with Steven Gerrard confidently burying his penalty after 49 minutes. The home side’s demise was confirmed at the hour mark as Liverpool’s Alberto Moreno dispossessed Andros Townsend, before charging forward into space at blistering speed and then firing a low shot into the far corner to secure the points.

It was a brilliant performance from the Reds, reminiscent of the types of displays that Liverpool frequently showed throughout last season. Balotelli had a good debut despite failing to open his goalscoring account but as his fitness and understanding of the team’s playing style improves with time, one can only think he will make progress. £16m to secure his services was an excellent piece of business – time will tell if he is a success at Anfield and Balotelli knows that he needs to make the most of this opportunity.

I was particularly pleased with Alberto Moreno. He received a lot of criticism for his inability to prevent Manchester City’s opener at the Etihad, but he responded in superb fashion against Spurs. Defensively he was solid but the highlight has to be his stunning solo goal. Signed for £12m from Sevilla and only 22 years of age, he can only get better. Still a long way to go of course, but Moreno looks like he will be a vital player if he continues to burst down the wings and provides another dimension to Liverpool’s attacking play. Most importantly, he is a full-back so he must carry out his defensive duties too as this is an area that Liverpool must improve on, after their back-line frailties were exposed in the last campaign.

Last but not least, we have Raheem Sterling, who was just exceptional. Liverpool have such a talented young player in their hands and he is so good to watch. I remember my first visit to Anfield when I watched Liverpool draw 2-2 with Aston Villa. A game that most Liverpool supporters would probably want to forget but when I watched Sterling on the ball, he looked a player who could really make things happen. He would get you out of your seat. He was unpredictable – you didn’t know if he would cut inside or go round the outside. He was a serious threat against Spurs, playing in a more central role and constantly striking fear into the opposition with his pace and direct running. Many will have loved the moment when he was dancing into the penalty area, beating players as if they weren’t even there… until you get to the part where he weakly prodded the ball straight into the grasp of Hugo Lloris. What a moment that could have been…

It has been a decent start in the league for Liverpool so far. 2 wins out of 3 is respectable, especially when the defeat at Manchester City is also taken into account. As mentioned before, there is a still a long way to go and Rodgers’ side will be closely examined as the sesason progresses. It certainly is a massive season for him and the club.

Rahman Red Reflection: Clinical City Rifle the Reds

Liverpool suffered their first defeat of the season as Stevan Jovetic and Sergio Aguero inspired Manchester City to a comfortable 3-1 victory at the Etihad Stadium.

For much of the first half, Liverpool looked comfortable in possession and were rarely troubled. For 40 minutes, Manchester City were yet to register a shot on target, until a defensive lapse in the 18-yard box allowed Jovetic to pounce and blast his powerful strike through the legs of the despairing Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. Ten minutes into the second half, Jovetic doubled his tally with a wonderful team goal that was initiated and dispatched by the Montenegro striker. Sergio Aguero was introduced midway through the second half and within seconds, he dashed onto an excellent pass from Jesus Navas, finishing from a tight angle to all but end the contest. Liverpool secured a consolation after Rickie Lambert attacked a Daniel Sturridge cross and pressured Pablo Zabaleta to turn the ball into his own net.

Before Jovetic scored, I thought Liverpool played well in the first half. They had plenty of the ball and it looked like they would be going in level at half-time. Alberto Moreno made his debut and it was a difficult place to make an immediate impression. Unfortunately for him, he will be scrutinised for his error that led to Manchester City’s first goal. Moreno is 22 and can only get better. The home side were clinical in taking their chances and ultimately deserved the three points.

However, I am still concerned about the defence. Rodgers must address this as first priority. Liverpool conceded far too many goals last season and many have argued that this was the main reason why they failed to win the Premier League title. It will take time for Liverpool’s new signings to settle in and adapt to Brendan Rodgers’ philosophy. Mario Balotelli should be available for Sunday’s visit to White Hart Lane and hopefully Liverpool can return to winning ways as soon as possible.

At such an early stage of this season, I would not be too alarmed at this result as there is still a very long way to go. Rodgers must know that the defence needs to improve and hopefully they will work on this on the training ground. The new signings will understandably need time to gel and adjust to the high intensity of English football. Manchester City had the best home record in the league last season and I would not be surprised if Manuel Pellegrini’s side achieved this feat again. They have a fantastic squad – for a manager to be able to bring on a player like Aguero demonstrates their superior strength in depth and can only reaffirm the fact that they are one of the favourites to claim the title this season.

It’s still very early days and we shall see what happens…

Rahman Red Reflection: Southampton, Suarez and the (New) SAS

Liverpool started the 2014/15 season with an unconvincing 2-1 victory over Southampton at Anfield. It was a nervous encounter for the home side, as new Saints manager Ronald Koeman set out his team to frustrate the opposition and in doing so, they played very well and created some excellent goalscoring opportunities. The sheer delight on the face of Brendan Rodgers was clear for all to see when Daniel Sturridge swept in the winning goal, taking advantage of a knock-on from man-of-the-match Raheem Sterling, who also got his name on the scoresheet today with a neat finish in front of the Kop.

Sterling and Sturridge. The new SAS? Sounds exciting. Martin Skrtel chipped in a few times last season. We had a case of SASAS against Arsenal. If only El Pistolero was still here…

I was very disappointed that Luis Suarez left for Barcelona, especially the manner in how he made his departure, but I do believe the club was right to sell him. He is a really special talent and he will definitely be missed at Anfield, but the club has to move on and they will.

Is it impossible to replace Suarez? It is very difficult to name another player in the world who possesses similar qualities. The likes of Messi, Ronaldo and Bale spring to mind, but that is another debate entirely and it would be a dream if one of them became a Liverpool player! Tottenham Hotspur sold Gareth Bale for £85.3 million but failed to achieve their aim of securing a top-four finish, with Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood heading in and out through the revolving doors of White Hart Lane last season. The majority of the players they signed had struggled to make an impact and it will be interesting to see if their new manager Mauricio Pochettino can get the best out of his squad.

Liverpool sold Suarez for around £75 million and Rodgers has recruited the services of Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lovren, Divock Origi and Alberto Moreno. Javier Manquillo has also joined the club for two seasons on loan. I think they are all good acquisitions and time will tell if Rodgers has signed the right players for Liverpool to challenge for honours, but a quality striker is a requirement to support Sturridge.

To conclude, Liverpool should be encouraged by the fact they were able to kick off their Premier League campaign with a win despite a below-par performance. There is still a very long way to go and hopefully the displays will get better as the new signings adjust to life at Anfield, but the Reds visit Manchester City next week. A big game for both sides, but far from season-defining…

The Road to Anfield and Beyond

My first blog post of 2014. I should have written this ages ago… I have been really busy!

In recent years, January has been largely uneventful. When I was at university, this month would be the time I spent ploughing through assignments or revising for exams. In other words, education was always at the forefront. This year, however, has began in some style.

Last December, I won free Premier League tickets to watch Liverpool v Aston Villa at Anfield! I was ecstatic! I had previously watched the Liverpool youth team play Cambridge United in 2009, where the Reds claimed a 1-0 victory in a pre-season friendly at the R Costings Abbey Stadium. I was really excited about watching my first Premier League match and relishing the journey to the home of my favourite football team.

It was a three-hour drive all the way from Cambridge to Liverpool. I enjoyed lunch with my uncle at the Red Hot World Buffet, located within the Liverpool One shopping centre. You can choose from a variety of dishes including Indian, Italian, Chinese, Thai and much more. All for £9.99 (excluding drinks).  The food was good. Pre-match meal complete. Next stop – Anfield.

We arrived at the stadium well over an hour before the game. We were situated in the Main Stand, close to the away fans. A steady flow of supporters claimed their seats as the match edged ever closer to kick-off. The pre-match atmosphere around the ground was great, watching both sets of players jog out onto the pitch as they made their last-minute preparations for this Premier League encounter. The referee blew his whistle immediately after we bellowed out “You’ll Never Walk Alone” whilst standing with our red scarves. It was a wonderful moment. The ball was rolling and the battle had begun. No matter what the result would be, I knew this would be a match I would never forget and so it would eventually prove…

Liverpool were desperately poor throughout the first half. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. Inside the first minute of the game, Aston Villa missed a great chance with only the Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to beat. The Reds were lethargic, lacklustre and lifeless as the away side dominated the midfield, playing with a high tempo which really unsettled the Liverpool back line and their ability to keep possession. Paul Lambert’s boys were full of energy and were rewarded for their efforts after 25 minutes as Aston Villa burst forward on the counter attack, firing themselves into a deserved lead with Andreas Weimann prodding in from close range. Their star striker Christian Benteke doubled his side’s advantage in front of the Kop, heading into a gaping net after Mignolet misjudged a cross from the right-wing. We were all stunned and speechless, while the away supporters taunted us with their chants. I must admit, some of them were fairly amusing.

I had been looking forward to this occasion for ages. I was savouring the prospect of watching the best striker partnership in the Premier League – the SAS (Suarez And Sturridge). Instead, I found myself amongst tens of thousands of disgruntled Liverpool supporters watching our team being played off the park at home. It was difficult to see how we would get back into this. However, towards the latter stages of the first half, Daniel Sturridge lifted the ball beyond the Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan. GOAL! Anfield roared. We finally had something to cheer about! At this point, I was grateful to see a Liverpool goal. Despite an awful first-half display, we were only a goal behind. It was an excellent time to score.

We spent the interval scratching our heads in disbelief. “Liverpool have been excellent at Anfield in the league this season. What’s happening here?”

The second half began with the Reds showing more purpose. Lucas Leiva replaced Philippe Coutinho at the break and Steven Gerrard was pushed further forward as Liverpool started to take control. The captain played an exquisite diagonal ball through to Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan was in the box and Guzan charged towards him. Suarez went down. The crowd went wild. The referee awarded a penalty! From being second-best throughout the game, we had a fantastic opportunity to equalise! Anfield held its breath as Gerrard placed the ball on the spot whilst facing the Kop. He calmly took a few steps back before slamming his penalty into the bottom corner and beyond Guzan’s reach. 2-2! A great finish by Captain Fantastic and a superb comeback from the Reds! Liverpool went searching for a third but Suarez and Raheem Sterling were denied as the visitors held on for a point.

We were obviously disappointed not to see Liverpool win but it was certainly a game to remember. It was a tense encounter. The result left Brendan Rodgers’ side in fourth place, just two points ahead of fifth-placed Everton whilst falling eight points behind league leaders Arsenal. It seemed like it was going to be a real battle to secure a top-four finish this season. Two months later, Liverpool have won six of their last seven league games and appear to be on course for securing Champions League football next season. However, recent results have been so good that they currently occupy second place and are only four points behind current table-toppers Chelsea! It has been a really exciting season. With nine games left and Manchester City and Chelsea having to play at Anfield, optimism continues to build as Liverpool gather momentum in the title race…

Ibrahim visits Anfield for the first time
Ibrahim visits Anfield for the first time

Suarez and Sturridge: The Red Connection

Red hot: Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez celebrate in the 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace
Red hot: Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez celebrate in the 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace

“I am not sure there are two better in the league. Those two are right up there with the best in the country…”

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was full of praise for his strike duo last Sunday, as they played a vital role in beating managerless Sunderland 3-1 at the Stadium of Light. Few would be surprised to hear his words being echoed again, as Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge inspired the Reds to a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace. Before studying the duo’s performances on Saturday in their first match together at Anfield this season, one should analyse the recent revival of a promising partnership that could fashion a statement regarding their ambitions for this campaign.

Luis Suarez, the Uruguayan forward punished with a ten-match ban for sinking his teeth into the arm of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic, returned from his footballing exile last weekend to face Sunderland. His first league appearance of the season saw him swiftly reinstated to the starting line-up, combining with Daniel Sturridge to deliver the goods that handsomely illustrated the potency of Liverpool’s latest strike partnership. Sturridge was on hand (if you will pardon the pun) to score once again before creating two goals for Suarez, as the Reds secured the points.

It was evident that Liverpool’s most important player last season was Suarez. The Uruguayan made 33 appearances in the league and scored 23 goals, finishing second to Manchester United’s Robin van Persie in the race for the Golden Boot. Club captain Steven Gerrard feared the striker would leave in the summer, after Suarez expressed a desire to play for a club in the Champions League. Arsenal had two bids rejected for the player and was also linked with Real Madrid, but Liverpool stood firm and were determined to keep him at Anfield.

“Nobody tried harder than me to make him stay and he knows exactly what I think of him,” said Gerrard. “He is a special type of footballer and he gives us something different. When the club got the message to him that they were not going to sell him, he got his head down and has worked hard. I think it is a credit to Luis for the way he has come back. He realised that the club wanted to keep him and he has respected their decision. He is here now and he wants to stay. He wants to achieve something this season and he looks as hungry as he has ever done.”

Sturridge, on the other hand, had flourished in the absence of his strike partner. He has enjoyed the responsibility of being the main source for goals by netting the winners against Stoke City, Aston Villa and Manchester United. Sturridge’s goalscoring exploits after the first three games of this season guided Liverpool to the top of the table, resulting in the England forward and Brendan Rodgers to be awarded with the Barclays Player and Manager of the Month accolades for August respectively. This marked the Reds’ best start to a season since 1994/95. A thigh injury ruled out any involvement in England’s World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine, but he continued his goalscoring run by finding the net in a 2-2 draw with Swansea City.

Back-to-back defeats soon followed for Liverpool as they lost their first league game to Southampton and crashed out of the League Cup to Manchester United. Rodgers welcomed the arrival of Suarez with open arms as the Uruguayan produced an encouraging display at Old Trafford, but was unable to mark his return with victory. Liverpool had failed to win in their last three games in all competitions before their clash with Sunderland.

The reunion of Liverpool’s front pair for the first time at Anfield was never in doubt. Suarez required only 13 minutes to open the scoring against Crystal Palace, steering a superb low shot past Julian Speroni from 12 yards despite plummeting over. Sturridge wasted no time to print his name on the scoresheet three minutes later, twisting and turning before smashing an excellent strike into the far bottom corner beyond the reach of the goalkeeper. Steven Gerrard scored his first of the season from the penalty spot to put Liverpool in a commanding position before half-time, before Dwight Gayle snatched a consolation deep into the second half.

Questions were being asked of whether Rodgers would be successful in restoring Suarez, so that his integration did not cause an imbalance to a system which had seen Liverpool make a positive start to the campaign. Before he was suspended last season, Suarez showed that he was more than able to forge an effective partnership with Sturridge. One of the challenges Rodgers has been poised with is to reignite the firepower within his strike force. Based on recent wins over Sunderland and Crystal Palace, there is strong evidence that this striker combination could inject fear into the hearts of defences. Suarez has found the net 19 times in his last 22 games for the Reds, while Sturridge has 19 in 25 games since his arrival in January. Some will argue that this partnership requires further examination and testing, having disposed of two clubs who are currently struggling for form and find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table.

There will be many obstacles and trials for Brendan Rodgers and his Liverpool side to overcome. The Premier League campaign is still in its infancy but with the Reds starting positively, optimism will begin to develop around Anfield. One thing is certain, the 2013/14 season promises to be a thrilling rollercoaster ride.

Note: This article was originally posted on Insight Sport.