‘Top-class’ Daniel Sturridge makes riotous return to Liverpool, leaving Brendan Rodgers smiling

'I'm delighted for him. You can see it is now just about managing his ... introduction into the team' said Brendan Rodgers after Daniel Sturridge scored in Liverpool's 2-0 win on Saturday.

Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge shown during his side's 2-0 Premier League win over West Ham United at Anfield on Saturday. Oli Scarff / AFP / January 31, 2015
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Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has cautioned about placing too much expectation on Daniel Sturridge following his goalscoring return to action in a 2-0 win at home to West Ham United.

After Raheem Sterling put Liverpool ahead, second-half substitute Sturridge doubled the Merseysiders’ lead after five months out with thigh and calf injuries.

Despite that absence, the England international showed no signs of rustiness as he produced a clinical finish to score just 13 minutes after coming on to the pitch at Anfield.

But Rodgers urged fans to be patient with the 25-year-old forward, even though Sturridge finished off the kind of chance Liverpool’s goal-shy strikers have missed all season.

“It was nice for him and he’s been out for a long time,” Rodgers said.

“It’s about managing his game time. When he’s in that area he’s shown for us over a couple of years here that he is lethal.

“Daniel is a top-class player, he has shown that in his career so far. He worked very hard and the first opportunity that came his way he took.

“It was a great first touch and a wonderful finish. I’m delighted for him. You can see it is now just about managing his game-time and introduction into the team.”

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was left out of the starting line-up because of a slight hamstring injury.

However, the 34-year-old midfielder is in line to make his 700th Liverpool appearance in their FA Cup fourth-round replay with Bolton Wanderers on Wednesday.

And having seen Sterling's 51st-minute strike and Sturridge's shot 10 minutes from time secure victory over West Ham, Rodgers reckoned his side were approaching their best form of the campaign as they look to compete for a Champions League place. Saturday's win left Liverpool seventh in the Premier League, but brought them three points behind Southampton in fourth. Southampton play Swansea City on Sunday.

“The penetration and, slowly, the performance is getting better and better,” he said.

“Offensively, we were bright and the positioning of the team was good with really good tactical discipline in the team.

“And Simon Mignolet coming and dealing with things in the box, because there were a lot of aerial duels that you have got to deal with, the team stood up to that very well.

“They pressed the game well and got their rewards for that. It was an outstanding performance.”

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce felt injuries proved costly for the London club, with both Andy Carroll and James Collins limping off clutching their hamstrings.

“We had too many injuries, and in the second half and we dropped off too deep and allowed Sterling much more space,” Allardyce said.

“It wasn’t our day and we didn’t really have enough to cause them problems.”

Allardyce also confirmed that he did not select striker Diafra Sakho because of an ongoing row with Senegal over his eligibility.

Senegal have reportedly complained to Fifa, football’s global governing body, after Sakho missed the Africa Cup of Nations with a back injury but then played for his club.

Fifa rules state a player cannot play for a club if he is meant to be on international duty.

“Sakho was not in the team because of the situation we are in with Fifa,” Allardyce explained.

“While it’s happening it’s not conducive to pick him and we’ll look at that as quickly as possible.

“If you speak to the lad, he is just concerned about being denied the opportunity to play football. But it’s the rules and regulations. It’s sensible to do the right thing until it’s resolved.

“It was a recommendation that we shouldn’t pick him because of the ongoing situation.”

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