Of the many storylines entering Sunday's trip to City, Daniel Sturridge's return to the club with whom he made his Premier League debut was a fairly minor one. Part of that was down to time and repetition; it's been nearly four years since he last wore a Manchester City shirt, and he's faced his former club a number of times before, perhaps most notably during his loan spell at Bolton when he was sent off for a challenge on Edin Dzeko. So the focus on City's title charge and Liverpool's floundering Champions League hopes was appropriate, but perhaps we should have paid a bit more attention to the potential for Sturridge to have a significant impact on just his second Eastlands appearance since leaving in 2009.
It would have been attention well deserved, as the English striker had his best performance in a Liverpool shirt, playing the better part of 92 minutes--apparently sixty-plus of it with some sort of thigh injury--and causing fits throughout the Manchester City defense.
From the opening minutes it was clear that he was going to be something of a problem for the opposition, proving a willing runner across the front and showing a few fantastic touches in possession and distribution. Some excellent defending from Pablo Zabaleta prevented him a first shot on goal, and Luis Suarez should have done better with his cut-back after he'd beaten Matija Nastasic from midfield with little other than sheer pace.
He lashed in Liverpool's equalizer from twenty-five yards after taking a short touch from a Steven Gerrard pass, and in a move that's either classy or annoying, stifled any sort of celebration out of respect for his former club. That respect unfortunately wasn't returned, as the striker was roundly booed nearly every time he took a touch from that point on. It probably didn't help that most of his touches were to City's detriment, as even with a knock he caused trouble for most of the match.
Had he managed to sneak his toe-poke past Joe Hart it'd have been the perfect ending to a wonderful performance, but both he and Liverpool were forced to settle for a draw in a match that the performance--both his and the team's--deserved.
For now, though, we're left to hope that he's fit and capable of replicating today's display eight days from now, as it's clear that he makes Liverpool a far better side when they're on form, and if they're going to make a run at anything during the final months of the season, they're going to need him.