Stamford Bridge, London – As a cool chill began to work its way down the spines of those associated with Liverpool, boos echoed around Stamford Bridge and the realisation of succumbing to another piece of Eden Hazard brilliance started to set in. After creating the better chances against a Chelsea side, who offered Liverpool a greater share of the ball than expected, Liverpool were left ruing wasted chances.
The boos were for Daniel Sturridge as he came onto the field with four minutes of the match to be played. It felt as though the Chelsea supporters were doing it more out of a sense of tradition than any real contempt for their former striker. It seemed ‘the thing to do’ when an ex-player enters the fray and you are ahead, remaining unbeaten in the league and heading for a successive victory over a title challenging rival. In many ways, Sturridge resembles an afterthought for the home fans these days and to a certain extent for the Liverpool fans too. That, however, was with four minutes to play, at the final whistle, he was at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
His equaliser with a minute of normal time remaining was a magnificent goal. The kind of strike from distance of a still ball that would have been impossible for any goalkeeper to stop, even Kepa Arrizabalaga, the world’s most expensive. Having been at Anfield to see Hazard’s superb individual goal last Wednesday, it was a treat to see another fine goal at Stamford Bridge. It was completely different to Hazard’s; Sturridge received the ball with little on, standing about 20-yards out from Kepa’s goal. But his eyes lit up. No one harried him, nor closed him down. N’Golo Kante raised a leg but that was about it after a pulsating game that had taken a lot out of the players.
Sturridge shuffled and then let rip, across the goal and into the far top-corner, passing through the only gap available between Kepa’s hand, the crossbar and the post. It was what Liverpool had deserved, but to see an equaliser in such circumstances from that player was certainly special.
Sturridge was Liverpool’s leading striker when Jurgen Klopp arrived at Anfield, a lot has happened since and while these days he is not even in the top four, there are times when he can still make his presence felt. The last time he trotted out at the Bridge was for West Bromwich Albion last February whilst on loan. He lasted only four minutes before being substituted with an injury that would keep him out for another month. One could say, that depicts Sturridge’s career in the past four years; full of setbacks and injuries but there has also been moments of quality.
‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is a common enough phrase, and it applies to Sturridge’s recent time at Liverpool quite aptly. He simply hasn’t existed; he has been an afterthought in the minds of the Liverpool faithful. He will show a glimpse, then retreat – sometimes through his own fault, but also through now of his own. This goal 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 so again.
There are signs that Sturridge may be called upon more often this season, a greater trust placed in him. Mohamed Salah is yet to reach the heights of last season, which is completely expected, and he was substituted halfway through the second-half here. A move that would have not seemed possible only a few months ago; there were some shaking of heads amongst Liverpool supporters, but it was obvious that his impact on this game was waning.
The four minutes that Sturridge managed at Stamford Bridge this time around were far more productive and cancelled out Hazard’s opener in the first-half. To put it simply, Sturridge stole the show. The game was fast-paced for long periods, Liverpool dominating possession but struggling to beat the ever-improving Chelsea defence. David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger were called upon quite regularly, but it was Liverpool’s wastefulness in the crucial areas that frustrated at times.
Roberto Firmino headed from close-range into the ground from a corner, it bounced towards the goal but Luiz cleared. Salah hit one shot wide, another one over and one even went on target, his shooting boots need a bit of a clean. When Xherdan Shaqiri came off the bench, he brought more pace and more dynamism, but couldn’t grow enough to latch onto an inviting Andrew Robertson cross through the area. It looked like it was to be a second defeat in a week at the hands of Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea, this was a far more attractive fixture and was full of respect, quality and entertainment, but also a fair amount of frustration. Then Sturridge entered, and reminded everyone what he is capable of achieving.