independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Kop sing Sturridge praises as Liverpool hit five

Liverpool 5
Norwich 0

In scoring his third goal in his first three games in this rout over Norwich, Daniel Sturridge joined an elite group of seven Liverpool players who have achieved the same feat.

After Sturridge tapped in following Stewart Downing's volleyed cross on 58 minutes, he continued a bedding-in period more comfortable than the world's snuggest eiderdown.

If another goal was not satisfying enough, the chant of 'Sturridge' from The Kop – an echo of that usually reserved for 'Fowler' and 'Dalglish' no less – signalled the swiftness of the 23-year-old's impact.

"Luis Suarez did what he does all season but we had a real fluidity at the top end," said manager Brendan Rodgers. "Daniel has pace and power, but he is also clever. It gives the opponent someone else to worry about.

"Suarez has been incredible but now we have a recognised goalscorer beside him. The second goal was a wonderful demonstration of how good players link together.

"I've seen it in training, the combinations are really good and then you see the form of Steven Gerrard using every club in his bag and then scoring a trademark goal. Overall it was a wonderful performance."

As well as Sturridge and the customary brilliance of Suarez – he struck his 20th of the season – it was the renaissance of Jordan Henderson that left a lingering impression. His classical volley from 20 yards gave Liverpool the impetus. Suarez effectively ended the game before half time, benefiting from a Sturridge dummy after a Lucas Leiva defence-cutter.

Gerrard rammed home the fourth from 25 yards on 66 minutes, before Ryan Bennett deflected substitute Raheem Sterling's effort into his own net.

Rodgers may take as much satisfaction from the ovation given to Henderson shortly before full time. The 22-year-old carried the demeanour of a startled bunny suffering anxiety attacks during his first season on Merseyside, so much so he suffered the ignominy of being offered to Fulham last summer.

Such timidity was unrecognisable when swinging his right boot to give his side a thoroughly deserved lead on 26 minutes, not just because of the beauty of the strike, but also his interplay, desire to take possession and dynamic forward runs.

This was the player for wich Liverpool paid £20m, a youngster whose inefficiency scarred Fenway Sports Group when they assessed the initial returns but who, used correctly, is displaying greater potential.

Rodgers must take credit for that, reshaping his formation to ensure Henderson was able to take possession facing goal and looking to move forward rather than take the safety-first option.

It also shows how Sturridge's introduction can galvanise others, his inclusion forcing a change of shape, Liverpool playing a more narrow but also adaptable formation.

Although Suarez and Sturridge played as a striking pair, Henderson took on a free role, floating behind the front two.

Norwich, it must be said, were tame. "We have been well and truly beaten," said manager Chris Hughton.

"I've a good group of lads but we have underachieved and underperformed. "It's never nice to be beaten.

"It is normal that things are said afterwards, but in the right way. Now it is important to put it behind us.

"We have to be better than that. Liverpool were excellent but this was the only game for quite some time where we have been well beaten. We need to address that."

For all their faults, Norwich could have opened the scoring on seven minutes when centre-half Bennett was left unmarked after a Robert Snodgrass free-kick.

Apart from that, Brad Jones, deputising for the injured Pepe Reina, was a spectator.

The league table still makes humbling reading, but Liverpool have now won as many at Anfield in this Premier League campaign as they did for the whole of last season.

Faced with facts like that, and armed with a striker already renewing the record books, the view that this club is making tentative strides forward is easier to validate.

Telegraph

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