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Super Sturridge rouses Reds

Aston Villa 0 Liverpool 1
No one can deny the importance of Luis Suarez to Liverpool, not least Brendan Rodgers.

But those who have written off the Merseyside club as a one-man team would do well to revise that theory.

For the second successive weekend, Daniel Sturridge was the Reds’ hero with the winner against Aston Villa for what was his eighth goal in his last seven Premier League matches.

This was the first time Liverpool have claimed maximum points from their opening two matches in five years. They have not been beaten in their last 10 league games. Suarez has missed the last six of them, of which the Reds have won five, scoring 12 and conceding just one.

Hardly the form of a team in crisis.

Whether 1-0 victories over Villa and Stoke provide sufficient evidence to suggest Rodgers’ team can be Champions League contenders remains to be seen.

Next weekend’s meeting with Manchester United will provide a more informative benchmark.

But when you consider the Anfield club failed to win a match until 29 September last season, the signs, regardless of that outcome, are pointing in the right direction for the Carnlough native.

Liverpool are adamant Suarez is going nowhere. With the transfer window shutting a week today we do not have to wait much longer to find out.

Yet even if the exceptional yet errant Uruguayan were to leave all, on recent evident at least, would perhaps not be lost.

Sturridge, precociously gifted yet previously prone to lapses in focus, has taken on the mantle with aplomb.

Considering his cv is already adorned by Chelsea and Manchester City too, it is hard to believe he is still only 23. At £12m he is starting to look a shrewd piece of business and, on Saturday, Villa’s man of the moment, Christian Benteke, was stuck in his shadow.

Rodgers has taken Sturridge to one side and urged him to forget City and Chelsea.

"He’ll probably tell you that," he said. "Here, he’s comfortable, in terms of he knows where he sits. He’s got the England captain behind him, advising him and guiding him, all his team-mates are fighting and running and working, and he’s very much a part of that.

"So he’s got no arrogance; he’s got a lovely footballing arrogance. But as a human being he’s a wonderful boy.

"If you look at Daniel Sturridge and what he has, as long as he continues and keeps his fitness, he would be a big, big threat for any team.

"You’d look at him and people would think he’d maybe be a Brazilian striker with his body physique and his pace and power.

"England are fortunate to have him because he’s a big, big talent. But he knows he needs to be consistent, he needs to get himself the games and the goals. I have got no doubt that he will be a massive asset for England."

His winner, a fine 21st-minute solo effort, capped an impressive first half from the Reds.

He had Philippe Coutinho at least partially to thank after the Brazilian cleverly dummied Jose Enrique’s low cross, yet he still had much to do, jinking around two defenders and Brad Guzan, the goalkeeper, before firing into the roof of the net.

"It’s still very early, he’s a lot more to do, but there is absolutely no question he’s potentially the top English striker," said Rodgers.

"He’s got all the tools to be that. It was a terrific goal, good finish, good composure and another excellent performance from him."

After their stunning opening day win at Arsenal and unfortunate defeat at Chelsea on Wednesday, this appeared one game too many for a jaded-looking Villa in what has been a taxing start.

Paul Lambert’s side dominated the second half and were left to rue a Gabriel Agbonlahor miss and stunning Simon Mignolet save to deny Christian Benteke late on.

However, they have still done enough this past week to suggest they can avoid another relegation skirmish.

"We knew on paper it would be a difficult week for us," goalkeeper Guzan said. "The work ethic has been unbelievable. It’s unfortunate we came up a bit short but we have made huge strides in the last 12 months."

ASTON VILLA (4-4-2): Guzan 6: Lowton 6 (El Ahmadi 65, 6), Okore 6, Vlaar 7, Luna 5; Bacuna 5, Westwood 6 (Helenius 83), Delph 6; Agbonlahor; Weimann (Tonev 73), Benteke.

LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Mignolet 7; Johnson 6, Touré 7, Agger 7, Enrique 6; Henderson 7, Gerrard 7, Lucas 7; Iago Aspas 6 (Cissohko 69, 6), Sturridge 8, Coutinho 8 (Allen 84).

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Attendance: 42,098.