Daniel Sturridge is dancing again

Liverpool 2 Tottenham 1: There was something telling in the manner in which Daniel Sturridge celebrated the first of the goals which helped Liverpool secure safe passage to the fifth round of the EFL Cup last night.

Daniel Sturridge is dancing again

Sturridge clambered back to his feet in the goalmouth, grabbed the match ball and held it closely to his chest, and jogged in the direction of the bench. It felt less of a reminder of his goalscoring qualities, and more of statement of intent. Of defiance, even.

After an anonymous 60 minutes against Manchester United on his last start, which saw him substituted for the more dynamic Adam Lallana, the epitaph of his Liverpool career was seemingly already being written in some quarters.

He would become the highest profile casualty of Klopp’s desire to gegenpress opponents to death; not fit enough, not mobile enough, not enough desire. But on his fifth start of the season the 27-year-old underlined why he may yet have a role to play at Anfield under Klopp.

Too often Sturridge has been accused of not playing with a minor tweak, of being afraid of putting his head where it hurts. As well as showing his predatory instincts his opening goal defied those stereotypes as his luminous green boot stretched to beat Michel Vorm to the ball and poke it into the net, tumbling over in the process.

When he added a second goal, racing on to a superb through ball from Georginio Wijnaldum, his familiar dance celebration returned.

Eleven changes from the Liverpool starting line-up which edged past West Bromwich Albion last weekend suggested where Klopp’s priorities are.

Although Liverpool showed much of the same purpose and intensity with which they have begun Premier League fixtures this season. As well as Sturridge’s goals there were a couple of encouraging displays from two of Liverpool’s Academy products.

In 18-year-old Scouser Trent Alexander-Arnold Liverpool have found a competent right-back who did not appear in the slightest bit fazed by the bigger stage despite a rash booking, while fellow debutant Ovie Ejaria may have a languid style but he showed some nice touches.

This was invaluable experience for the pair as well as important game time for the likes of Divock Origi, Lucas, Marko Grujic, Danny Ings and Simon Mignolet.

Liverpool’s high pressing caught Georges-Kevin Nkoudou cold in the ninth minute and he squandered possession which enabled Marko Grujic to send a low ball into the area for Sturridge to strike home.

It filled the striker with confidence and moments later he almost added a second with an audacious curling effort, pawed away by Vorm in the Tottenham goal.

Sturridge’s strike partner Origi – also largely reduced to cameos in the league – also caught the eye and his persistence carved out another chance only for Sturridge only for his finishing to desert him.

Sturridge’s second after the break should have put the game to bed for Liverpool but Tottenham made the hosts sweat after Lucas nipped the heels of Erik Lamela inside the area, and Vincent Janssen dispatched the penalty kick.

A hairy 14 minutes, in which Klopp was at his most animated, for the Reds followed with Tottenham camped in the Liverpool half, but with the hosts actually going closer with chances for Ings and Sturridge.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side to their credit, never gave Liverpool a moment of respite in what remained forcing even Sturridge to do his share of defensive work. Whether the game turns out to be a defining moment for the striker remains to be seen.

It is in the Premier League, where he has no goal since April, that he must show these faculties and not just against Tottenham’s second string.

LIVERPOOL (4-1-3-2):

Mignolet 7; Alexander-Arnold 6 (Clyne 68; 6), Lucas , Klavan 5, Moreno 5; Stewart 6; Wijnaldum 8, Ejaria 6; Grujic 7 (Can 89; 6); Origi 8 (Ings 68; 6), Sturridge 8.

TOTTENHAM (4-2-3-1):

Vorm 7, Trippier 7, Carter-Vickers 6, Wimmer 5, Davies 6; Dier 5 (Wanyama 67; 7), Winks 6; Onomah 5, Carroll 6 (Lamela 61; 8), Nkoudou 5 (Harrison 83; 6); Janssen 7.


Jon Moss

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