Stur­ridge stun­ner

Liver­pool sub­sti­tute strikes late to deny Chelsea

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - Sam Wal­lace CHIEF FOOT­BALL WRITER at Stam­ford Bridge

They booed Daniel Stur­ridge when he came on with four min­utes re­main­ing, more out of a sense of tra­di­tion than any real con­tempt for their for­mer Chelsea for­ward who is an af­ter­thought for the home fans at Stam­ford Bridge these days, al­though, it should be said, not on this oc­ca­sion.

His equaliser was a mag­nif­i­cent goal, the kind of strike from dis­tance of a still ball that would have been im­pos­si­ble for any goal­keeper to save, even Kepa Ar­riz­a­bal­aga, the world’s most ex­pen­sive, and af­ter an evening of nearmisses Liver­pool fi­nally had their goal. Stur­ridge was the club’s lead­ing striker when Jur­gen Klopp ar­rived at An­field and while these days he is not even in the top four, there are times when he can still make his pres­ence felt.

His pre­vi­ous out­ing at Stam­ford Bridge was on loan at West Bromwich Al­bion in Fe­bru­ary, when he lasted just four min­utes be­fore be­ing sub­sti­tuted with an in­jury that would keep him out for an­other month. This time he was on the same pitch for four of the reg­u­la­tion 90 min­utes and ended up steal­ing the show, even from Eden Haz­ard, the lit­tle mae­stro who scored his sixth league goal of the sea­son.

This was Stur­ridge’s sec­ond league goal of the sea­son, and while he has been well and truly eclipsed by the fa­mous front three of Liver­pool who have come to promi­nence in the last 12 months, this was a glim­mer of what he could once do and may yet do again. He has lost his place in the Eng­land team in the four years since his best sea­son in a Liver­pool shirt, and per­haps it is the qual­ity of mo­ments like these that just add to the frus­tra­tion of what might have been.

About 20 min­utes ear­lier, Mo­hamed Salah had been sum­moned to the bench to be re­placed by Xher­dan Shaqiri and last sea­son’s Premier League top goalscorer did not look happy about it. Klopp was clear that he was glad his striker was still be­ing de­ci­sive, but also that Salah had to ac­cept these dif­fi­cult games when the ball would not go in.

“It was not the best game of Mo’s ca­reer – that’s 100 per cent,” Klopp said. “But com­ing into a game like this, con­stantly be­ing into the kind of sit­u­a­tions he comes into – that makes a world­class player. You fail, you miss – that hap­pens. You could see the first one he missed was not in the right po­si­tion – ball, foot – and that’s why he passed. Why? He could have fin­ished again. These things hap­pen. It is like rid­ing a bike. It is not like you wake up and can­not ride a bike any more. You need to work for these mo­ments when it is click­ing. And that is the mo­ment he is in, no prob­lem with that.”

In the first half Salah was eclipsed by Haz­ard, who scored an­other fine goal, al­beit not quite of the same level as the one he got at An­field in Wed­nes­day’s Carabao Cup tie. He is now the Premier League’s top goalscorer and Mau­r­izio Sarri still main­tains that Haz­ard can score 40 in all com­pe­ti­tions this sea­son. Cer­tainly he is play­ing so well that the ques­tion is more what his team would be like with­out him.

Sarri still re­fuses to con­sider his team as con­tenders for the Premier League ti­tle, even though they re­main un­beaten in third place. They played their part in a won­der­ful game in which both sides at­tacked in the first half un­til Liver­pool, chas­ing Haz­ard’s 25th-minute strike, took over af­ter the break. In the end, the draw felt about right and both man­agers em­braced af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle with gen­uine warmth and, per­haps, a lit­tle re­lief on both sides.

Haz­ard’s first-half fin­ish was a bit of a mis-hit, but when the ball was in the net and Liver­pool’s de­fend­ers were look­ing re­proach­fully at one an­other there was no sur­prise that he had found a way through. There had been a rapid ex­change of passes in the mid­field in­volv­ing Haz­ard and then he was off, run­ning into the left chan­nel on to Jorginho’s pass and strik­ing a left-foot shot into the ground that bounced past Alis­son and in­side the far post.

Sarri said that he ex­pected Wil­lian, Pe­dro and Al­varo Mo­rata to reach dou­ble fig­ures this sea­son, but much more from Haz­ard. “I think he [Haz­ard] is able to score 40 goals. So he has to score an­other 33 – 40 in a sea­son, not just in the Premier League. I think so and he’s try­ing to do it. I’m re­ally very happy with the de­fen­sive per­for­mance of Haz­ard to­day, es­pe­cially in the sec­ond half.”

One first-half shot from Salah that he tried to shape into the top cor­ner of Ar­riz­a­bal­aga’s goal went hor­ri­bly awry. An­other, when he went through, was kicked off the line by Antonio Rudi­ger and by the time Klopp made the de­ci­sion to bring him off, Salah was strug­gling to have any im­pact. David Luiz kicked a header from Roberto Firmino off the line and Shaqiri found his legs just too short to get a good con­nec­tion on an Andy Robertson cross.

When he came on, Stur­ridge scored with his sec­ond touch of the game, a shot sim­i­lar to the one that rat­tled the Chelsea bar at An­field on Wed­nes­day.

“It’s that tight some­times,” Klopp said. “Three days ago he had a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion and he hit the cross­bar. He is a fan­tas­tic foot­baller. He had a full pre­sea­son and is in the best shape since I have known him. Sim­ple as that. I am re­ally happy for him. He works hard. He’s just a good lad. When he came in the dress­ing room 20 min­utes later it was pretty loud. The boys were happy for him. He is re­ally in a good mo­ment.”

If Haz­ard had scored a sec­ond on the hour then it would have been a very dif­fer­ent game, but Alis­son saved when N’Golo Kante’s quick free-kick opened up Liver­pool. Sarri’s de­ci­sion to bring on Ross Barkley for Ma­teo Ko­vacic in the clos­ing stages was an unusual one and the English­man strug­gled in pos­ses­sion, al­though there were no such prob­lems for Stur­ridge. There is, of course, an Eng­land squad an­nounced this week and Stur­ridge has not played for his coun­try in 12 months – he has not scored in al­most two years.

His most re­cent in­jury prob­lems be­gan on Eng­land duty in 2014 but when he scores goals like this one, he will be hard to ig­nore.

‘I think Haz­ard is able to score 40 goals. So he has to score an­other 33’

Fan-tas­tic: A Liver­pool sup­porter rushes to cel­e­brate with Daniel Stur­ridge, far right, and team-mates af­ter the striker’s stun­ning equal­is­ing goal against Chelsea

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