Stur­ridge’s timely strike leads Liver­pool’s young guns to im­pres­sive win

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE - By Tom Pren­tki at the Vi­tal­ity Sta­dium

It has been quite the week for Liver­pool. The 27th an­niver­sary of Hills­bor­ough and the fi­nal me­mo­rial ser­vice to be held at Anfield took place on Fri­day, the day af­ter they staged a his­toric, emo­tion­ally in­tense comeback to beat Borus­sia Dort­mund and reach the last four of the Europa League.

That meant the trip south to Bournemouth, three days be­fore the Mersey­side derby, was never likely to be a pri­or­ity. And so it proved.

Only Daniel Stur­ridge sur­vived in Jür­gen Klopp’s line-up and the av­er­age age of the team was just 24. But Liver­pool have lost just two of their last 14 games and con­fi­dence seems to have an alchemy of its own as his young play­ers did the Ger­man proud. “I said af­ter Thurs­day that we have ab­so­lutely no chance against Bournemouth with the same line-up,” said Klopp of his se­lec­tion. “The ex­cit­ing thing for a man­ager is to give the boys [Daniel Ward, Brad Smith and Con­nor Ran­dall] their first Premier League game.”

First-half goals from two of the Reds’ more ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers, Roberto Firmino and Stur­ridge, put the vis­i­tors firmly in con­trol against Ed­die Howe’s side. It was a timely re­minder from Stur­ridge to both Klopp and Roy Hodg­son, the Eng­land man­ager, and he might have had a hat-trick af­ter twice strik­ing the wood­work in the sec­ond half. With nine goals in 14 starts this sea­son, there is lit­tle doubt­ing his qual­ity when fit.

“He’s a bril­liant player, he was very good. I re­ally en­joyed the per­for­mance of Daniel Stur­ridge,” said Klopp, who pre­ferred Divock Origi against his for­mer club on Thurs­day. “No­body is un­drop­pable. I de­cide as a man­ager if we play with one, two, three or four strik­ers but he’s in a re­ally good shape, men­tally and phys­i­cally.”

But this has been a mem­o­rable week for Bournemouth too. Reach­ing 40 points, long re­garded as the sure mark of Premier League sur­vival, was hailed by cap­tain Tommy El­ph­ick as “the big­gest achieve­ment in the club’s his­tory” af­ter the pre­vi­ous Satur­day’s vic­tory at As­ton Villa.

“I think I’d agree with those sen­ti­ments from Tommy,” said Howe. “It prob­a­bly has been our big­gest achieve­ment to date.”

Bournemouth’s his­tory is one that has never in­cluded vic­tory over Liver­pool, a statis­tic that they were not able to change de­spite Klopp’s ro­ta­tions. Sens­ing their op­por­tu­nity to do so, Bournemouth were sharp from the out­set with Lu­cas, a makeshift cen­tre-back, be­ing kept busy by Joshua King. But Klopp’s young­sters were keen to make their own im­pres­sion. Sheyi Ojo and Jor­don Ibe were bright on the flanks and Ojo’s weav­ing run cul­mi­nated in forc­ing a good low save from Ar­tur Boruc.

Liver­pool went in front four min­utes be­fore the break. Ibe ran at Si­mon Fran­cis be­fore find­ing Stur­ridge, who back-heeled bril­liantly to force a low save from Boruc from which Firmino touched home the re­bound.

Stur­ridge, im­pres­sive as the lone striker, added a sec­ond in the last sec­onds of the half, head­ing in beau­ti­fully from Ibe’s free-kick to put his team in full con­trol.

Liver­pool started the sec­ond half as they had ended the first and Stur­ridge wasted a glo­ri­ous chance to put them fur­ther in front af­ter Joe Allen robbed Dan Gosling and put him clean through, only for the Eng­land striker to dink his ef­fort against the out­side of a post.

Mike Jones waved away penalty ap­peals when Kolo Touré ap­peared to han­dle be­fore King shot fiercely from a tight an­gle as Howe’s side sought a way back. “It was a dif­fi­cult one but the ref­eree’s made his call,” said Howe. “Credit to the play- ers, the sec­ond-half per­for­mance was bet­ter.” The fu­ture looks bright for Klopp if this dis­play is any­thing to go by and none of his fringe play­ers did them­selves any harm here, show­ing in­dus­try and com­po­sure in equal mea­sure.

Al­ways a threat, they came close to a third as Stur­ridge rat­tled a shot against the stan­chion with eight min­utes re­main­ing.

But Bournemouth never gave up and were able to find a goal for their ef­forts. It came as King lashed a loose ball into the bot­tom left cor­ner, be­fore Steve Cook al­most found an equaliser at the death as he headed Marc Pugh’s cross onto the roof of the net.

“We had a lot of mo­ments when we could have scored more,” said Klopp. “They scored the goal but I think we de­served the win.”

Liver­pool be­came the first team to win away in the Premier League at 50 dif­fer­ent grounds and are full of con­fi­dence as they await the visit of Ever­ton on Wed­nes­day evening when a vastly dif­fer­ent XI are ex­pected to start at Anfield.

Klopp has used 31 play­ers this sea­son, more than any other Premier League man­ager, but de­nied that he was pri­ori­tis­ing the Europa League with his selections.

“The most im­por­tant tour­na­ment is, and al­ways will be, the Premier League,” he said.

In con­trol: Daniel Stur­ridge con­verts Liver­pool’s sec­ond on the south coast

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