Reds boss Rodgers battles against cycle of repetition
Watching Liverpool is rather like viewing the same game on a loop. The late summoning of Daniel Sturridge here was not only Brendan Rodgers's best hope of keeping Wembley in sight, but also to break the depressing cycle of repetition.
Since the turn of the year, there has been little reason for Rodgers (right) to criticise performances. There has been solidity in the defence, creativity in midfield, and even his goalkeeper has started to catch balls rather than give the impression he needed to burst them with the help of a crucifix and stake.
The one area of consistency is the goals-for column. It is debilitating, making games that should be comfortable a toil, and occasionally causing defeats despite dominance.
Yet again, the early stages here provoked the question of how soon it would be before Sturridge was introduced - he was sent on with 20 minutes left but the fact Fabio Borini was summoned first was telling. Sturridge is still working his way back. Raheem Sterling has made a noble effort as a front-line striker, but there is a wit about Sturridge that offers the balance Liverpool have lacked.
It does not bode well for those strikers overlooked in Sturridge's absence. As Rickie Lambert considered an offer from Villa Park on deadline day, he must have asked himself if he could not start games like this what chance he would have when Sturridge was fit.
Likewise Borini, who despite his calling here is not part of Rodgers's long-term plans. Mario Balotelli was nowhere to be seen in Lancashire, not even as a substitute, presumably his cameo at Stamford Bridge last week enough to ensure that the manager keeps him away from the bench so he is not tempted to give him another chance.
With Danny Ings expected at Anfield in the summer, Rodgers is ensuring the same mistake does not happen again. Until Sturridge is available every week, he cannot promise Liverpool will not pay for a lack of firepower again this season. (© Daily Telegraph)