Dove Magazine

Liverpool see off Aston Villa as Daniel Sturridge hits double

The magnitude of his 164th game as Liverpool manager did not show in Brendan Rodgers’ reaction to a precious victory over Aston Villa.

A handshake for Tim Sherwood, a pat on the back for Gary McAllister, a thumbs-up to the directors’ box and he was gone. Reprieved and relieved by the much-missed class of Daniel Sturridge.

Rodgers has waited a damaging length of time for Sturridge to regain fitness and the clinical touch his team has desperately lacked this year. He was repaid when it mattered most, the England international scoring twice to seal a first win in five league matches after James Milner had driven Liverpool into a swift lead.

Liverpool

Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge scores their second goal past Aston Villa’s goalkeeper Brad Guzan at Anfield. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Of course it could never run smoothly for a manager in Rodgers’s predicament. He endured unnecessarily nervous moments after poor defending allowed Rudy Gestede to score twice and give Villa hope their naive and careless play scarcely deserved. But Liverpool, sharper in all facets than of late and showing the obvious benefit of a proven marksman in their ranks, held firm to release some of the pressure on Rodgers.

“It is not rocket science,” said the Liverpool manager. “The last time we scored three goals was when Daniel started against Tottenham [in February].

“If you want to compete at the top you need quality. Daniel has shown in his time here that he is a real top talent. He’s probably disappointed he didn’t get a hat-trick but his overall game and touch were outstanding. He also showed a great combination with Danny Ings in the first time they have started together.”

Rodgers went on to suggest he is victim of a conspiracy by people “outside of here” who want him removed from his job.

When the emotions had faded, it was Sherwood who was left with the greater problems given the paucity of his team’s performance. A young Villa side have not won in the Premier League since the opening day.

The Villa manager said: “We will always score goals and if you score two at Anfield you expect to take something from the game but we didn’t do that. It was the same against Leicester. That is a major disappointment but it is something I expected. It is a young group of players we acquired. The club decided it was the best way to go forward. I am very privileged to have the chance to work with them but it comes with its ups and downs and you can see that now.”

You’ll Never Walk Alone may have started on a bum note – because of a problem with the pre-match music – but mercifully for Rodgers his Liverpool team did not. A goal on 66 seconds from Milner, the stand-in captain’s first for his new club and the quickest in the Premier League this season, provided the perfect release for a besieged manager and frustrated crowd.

Liverpool found the precision and space that eluded them in midweek againstthe League Two side Carlisle United in their opening attack. Two Aston Villa midfielders, Carlos Sánchez and Idrissa Gana, abandoned their station – and Milner – to charge at Philippe Coutinho when he took possession in central midfield. The Brazilian threaded a pass through to the former Villa player and, with no one near him, Milner controlled before driving a low shot inside Brad Guzan’s left-hand post from 18 yards. The sense of relief around Anfield was palpable. “The last thing I told the players as they left the dressing room was to keep it tight,” said Sherwood.

Gestede headed wide from Jordan Amavi’s cross but otherwise Villa’s brightest moments in the first half stemmed from Liverpool errors. Emre Can cleared a routine cross from Alan Hutton back into the danger area and to Gestede on the edge of the penalty area. The former Blackburn forward lacked composure and lashed wide. Ashley Westwood went close after Simon Mignolet tamely palmed another Hutton cross into his path.

The Kop did not disguise its displeasure at Mignolet but their worries appeared to ease when Sturridge scored his first goal since March. Milner operated in a more advanced role against his old club, often at the expense of the deeper Coutinho, and created the second when he received Sturridge’s lay-off and flicked the return over the Villa defence. The England international had continued his run and swept a fine left-footed volley beyond the stranded Guzan. It was the first time Liverpool had scored more than once in a game since May.

Villa were gifted unlikely hope when Mamadou Sakho, Martin Skrtel and Mignolet all left Hutton’s cross from the right and Gestede arrived to convert at the back post. Sakho raged at his goalkeeper, leaving no doubt over where he felt the fault rested, while Rodgers despaired in his technical area. Seconds later Sturridge restored Liverpool’s two-goal lead.

This time he played a one-two with Coutinho on the edge of the Villa area before stroking a confident finish into Guzan’s left-hand corner.

That should have sufficed for Liverpool but a fourth goal in 13 minutes, from Gestede once again, set up a nervous finale for the Anfield crowd. The Benin international headed for goal the instant Amavi shaped to cross from wide on the left and was first to the full-back’s delivery when it arrived in the area, towering above Sakho to steer a powerful header beyond Mignolet.

Coutinho, Sturridge and Ings all missed decent chances in the dying moments but Liverpool deservedly secured victory and Rodgers a lifeline. – the guardian-

 

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