By Merseyside correspondent Coral Barry
Daniel Sturridge can help his manager keep his job, Anfield is a very nervous place and other things we learned from Liverpool 3 Aston Villa 2.
Sturridge gives team cutting edge
This was not vintage Sturridge. Far from it. In the first half, he was completely off the pace. His touch was poor. He looked a touch leggy, and every inch a player making only his second start in five months. But, then, at the hour mark, the striker exploded into life. His first goal was a cracker and his second was clinical. Liverpool have been in desperate need of an A-list finisher and Sturridge provides just that. His quality ensured Liverpool scored more than a single goal in a game for the first time in 11 matches. He gives the team, missing the injured Christian Benteke today, badly needed cutting edge. He could also help Brendan Rodgers stay in the dugout for a while longer.
Anfield is a tense place to be
Yes, Liverpool won this match, but they were mighty close to losing it. The Anfield faithful were ecstatic to see three goals for the first time since Tottenham were defeated at the ground in February, but the supporters were put through the emotional wringer once again. Sturridge was given a standing ovation when he went off, but those on the terraces could only breathe easy when the final whistle went. The stands were filled with relief, but they won’t be fooled. It was not any Rodgers masterstroke that made sure of the win, it was Sturridge.
Milner is emerging as a true Liverpool leader
James Milner has been wearing the armband for six games and until today he has not looked capable of filling Jordan Henderson’s boots, never mind those of Steven Gerrard. This was an important afternoon for the former Manchester City man. He scored a brilliant opener and provided the pass for Liverpool’s second. It was only Wednesday night when he looked out of his depth and Liverpool were screaming out for some kind of leader, but if Milner finally has noticed the tightness on his arm, it can start to benefit Liverpool.
Coutinho is one of Premier League’s finest playmakers
David Silva, Mesut Ozil, Juan Mata, Cesc Fabregas. There are some gifted playmakers in the Premier League. But none is more effective at the moment than Philippe Coutinho. The conductor of the Liverpool orchestra provided further demonstration of his calibre with another display that oozed class. His touch, turns and vision are way beyond anything most Liverpool players have got near to this season. With Sturridge back in action, the Brazilian has someone close to being on the same wavelength. Coutinho was involved in two of his team’s goals and, for good measure, had a handful of long-range efforts that Brad Guzan did well to save.
Defence threatens to ruin progress again
Despite dominating the game, despite things finally clicking in attack, Liverpool’s defence was once again close to destroying it all. Under little or no pressure, they were so easy to cut through and one-man battering ram Rudy Gestede had Martin Skrtel’s head spinning. Liverpool have now conceded nine goals in four games. Most days Liverpool do not have Sturridge in the side. Most days Liverpool would have lost this game. No real progress, just some excellent play from Sturridge and Coutinho.