SAO PAULO, Brazil — Luis Suarez tormented English clubs throughout the Premier League season. On Thursday, he bedeviled the English national team.
In his first appearance since undergoing knee surgery four weeks ago, the Uruguayan bad boy and Liverpool FC sensation scored in the 85th minute — his second goal of the match — for a 2-1 victory that drove England to the brink of its earliest elimination from the World Cup since 1958.
“Two chances came his way,” English Coach Roy Hodgson said. “He took his chances, and that probably ended our chances of staying in the competition.”
While Uruguay, a 2010 semifinalist, revived its hopes of advancing to the knockout stage after a stunning loss to Costa Rica in the Group D opener, England will need a series of results to fall its way, starting with Italy defeating Costa Rica on Friday.
Suarez scored late in the first half before Wayne Rooney equalized in the 75th minute with his first goal in three World Cups. Ten minutes later, England captain Steven Gerrard let a goal kick by Uruguay carom off his shoulder and into the path of a man who recorded 31 goals in 33 EPL matches in the recently completed campaign.
Clear on the right side, Suarez bore down on goalkeeper Joe Hart before striking an angled eight-yarder with ferocious velocity.
He was not on the field at the end, his night disrupted by cramps and a stretcher ride to the sideline. After the final whistle, his teammates lifted their tearful hero into the air.
“I dreamed about these goals,” said Suarez, 27. “The truth is, I’m savoring this emotional moment so much because of all I went through and all the criticism I endured.”
Suarez’s checkered career has included bundles of goals for Dutch club Ajax (2007-11), for Liverpool and the national team but also on- and off-field incidents and a reputation for falling easily to draw fouls.
On this day, only his scoring expertise was under review.
“His teammates really love him,” Uruguay Coach Oscar Tabarez said after La Celeste (“Sky Blues”) defeated a European opponent in the World Cup for the first time since they edged the Soviet Union in the 1970 quarterfinals. “We all love him.”
The English squad and its merry supporters woke to a perfect English day in southern Brazil: ashen, cool and with a threat of mist. It was a suitable backdrop for the Three Lions to revive their World Cup ambitions after performing well in a 2-1 loss to group favorite Italy.
The meeting was ripe with intrigue as Suarez squared off against five Liverpool teammates representing England.
Known as much for mischief as scoring menace, the provocateur was greeted by howls from the English supporters and raucous applause from Uruguay’s backers.
England posed the first threat as Rooney’s 25-yard free kick buzzed past the top left corner. Cristian Rodriguez was just as close five minutes later on a roaring one-time bid.
Rooney was close again in the 31st minute, a header from a yard away that crashed against the frame where the crossbar meets the right post.
Uruguay went ahead eight minutes later. Dodging obstacles, Nicolas Lodeiro charged through midfield and pushed the ball ahead to Edinson Cavani on the left side. Three defenders gravitated toward him, but the one closest, right back Glen Johnson, yielded too much time and space.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward floated a wonderful pass over Phil Jagielka to Suarez, who headed the ball back across the six-yard box and past Hart — a world-class finish supplied by world-class service.
Not only was England losing, a player loathed everywhere in the country beyond Liverpool’s Anfield gates was responsible.
The second half crackled. Rooney should have equalized in the 54th minute from a mere 10 yards, but Fernando Muslera made an outstanding reflex save.
In a frightening moment, England forward Raheem Sterling’s left knee smashed into the head of sliding defender Alvaro Pereira. After Pereira received treatment for several minutes, the team doctor signaled for a substitution. Pereira wagged his finger repeatedly, insisting he could continue. He returned.
The match proceeded with unrelenting fervor. England’s perseverance paid off when Johnson made a brilliant run and crossed into the six-yard box, where Rooney was waiting for a simple tap-in.
England pressed for more, but Spanish referee Carlos Carballo ignored Pereira’s bump on Daniel Sturridge in the penalty area and Muslera made a superb save on Sturridge.
Suarez responded in the dying minutes on a sequence that came out of nothing: a long clearance by Muslera, a fortuitous deflection and a clinical finish.
“We did want we wanted to do,” Suarez said, “what we needed to do.”
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