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Classy Sturridge Sorry as Liverpool Beat Everton

On a night of unconfined glee, as Liverpool beat Everton 4-0 at Anfield, a non-story regarding Daniel Sturridge's alleged lack of respect has been allowed to gain traction. Let us dismiss it as the utter bilge it is and instead focus on a significant victory.

Joy unrestrained, as Danny notches the third but Aly, as ever, just didn't quite get it. Bless.
Joy unrestrained, as Danny notches the third but Aly, as ever, just didn't quite get it. Bless.
Laurence Griffiths

In these tarnished times of preening, vulgar and solipsistic sportsmen, there is something almost antediluvian about a genuinely humble footballer expressing regret for his shortcomings, especially in the wake of a masterful display of his singular talents. Such, however, were the sentiments of Daniel Sturridge last night, as he was asked to explain his effrontery upon being taken from the field after a two goal display.

BT, who covered the game in these parts were immensely titillated by the sight of the striker's irritation as he left the pitch and nearly went into spasms of onanistic glee as they replayed the somewhat awkward handshake and verbal exchange between the player and his manager. They then lingered indulgently on the disgruntled young man's face when the camera's ardour would have been better directed at his team mates, who impressively finished out the contest.

As your scribbler watched on aghast, the BT jobsworth tasked with the post-match interviews almost utterly ignored the fact that Sturridge was collecting the man of the match award for his two superbly taken goals and instead whipped himself into a frenzy of priggish self-righteousness, drawing the England man out as much as he could on the topic of his heinous crimes against the mores of civilised society.

As if that were not enough the microphone-toting drone then focused on the penalty miss and not the two wonderfully taken goals. Moral guardian of the people, Ray Stubbs, for it was he, seemed to imbue his questions with a needy, pleading sub-text - Why Daniel? Why? What about the children, Daniel? Won't you ever consider the children? Frankly, it was a display of the worst kind of belligerently histrionic, controversy-courting modern television.

Sturridge, however, rather than sulk as many would have, or rise to the bait in the style of his spiky ex-colleague, Jamie Carragher, said all the right things. He was respectful and patient with the unbalanced line of questioning, acknowledging that his display of pique may have been distasteful to viewers and manager alike. When asked about his "reaction" at being subbed, the striker was firm but humble, in a fashion that belies the perfidious portrayal of him as an arrogant sort.

'‘I want to apologise for my reaction,’ he told BT Sport. "It was just disappointment after missing the penalty, but I let myself down and the fans. I apologise if it caused anyone any offence. I didn't react in any way (to Rodgers) when I came off, I was just disappointed in how I took the penalty. But it's not about myself. It's about the boys in the team."

Brendan Rodgers, for his part, was equally adroit in his handling of the manufactured contention. Quite correctly, he directed the attention back to his player's outstanding performance and quietly asserted his own authority in front of the watching millions. As a teacher, I consider it no insult to suggest that Rodgers has about him something that the best in that profession always have. He is eminently approachable and earnest but has a quiet threat or foreboding quality. One does not mess with this fellow, and Sturridge, for all his brilliance, will have had his manager's stern words in his ear last night.

"It wasn’t a difficult decision to take him off at all,’ the manager insisted. "He scored with two sublime finishes and was outstanding throughout. But I wanted to shore the game up, after we put so much effort in. It was time to make a change and balance the team up, and that’s why Daniel came off. It was just frustration on his part, but there is no problem. He apologised to the group. I always say to the players that they must show respect to the club and that when the manager makes a decision like this, it’s not because someone has played poorly.

"Sometimes it is tactical or down to injury, but you accept coming off and sit with the rest for the remainder of the game. If you want an explanation, you can knock on my door the next morning, and you will get an honest answer. You don’t disrespect the club or its supporters. Daniel was just disappointed because he was desperate to get on the scoresheet again."

All of this froth should not detract for one instant from the excellence of Sturridge and his colleagues. Steven Gerrard produced a performance of authority and strength that had seemed beyond him of late; Luis Suarez scored the kind of majestic solo goal that convinces folk to bestow the Ballon d'Or. Philippe Coutinho shone in midfield and showed an appetite for pressing and tracking, whilst even the likes of Kolo Touré and Martin Skrtel, who had been so shaky of late, looked authoritative and solid. The latter in particular, resplendent in his new staple-shielding head-sock, was a model of defensive fortitude.

It was Sturridge, however, that stole the show. Both his goals, very different strikes, were characterised by the steely phlegm he displayed in taking them. The England man has become the most efficacious of centre-forwards, seeing opportunities, like his second effort, where others would not, and then having the glorious ability to capitalise. With the ball at his feet, Sturridge is a creative presence and has a deceptive turn of pace, allied to an eye for a pass. For the likes of Jordan Henderson, Coutinho and Gerrard, his off-the-ball running is a godsend and a valuable out-ball when the pressure is on or a counter-attack is possible.

Let us eschew all the petty vituperative nonsense and ignore the faux outrage and moral posturing. Liverpool beat Everton by four goals to nil in a match that most, your penman included, were hugely concerned about. In a season of watershed moments and defining fixtures, this was the most important result to date and may provide the psychological boost the squad needs, given the lack of reinforcements arriving at Anfield to date.

Whilst we still hope for a spectacular display of munificence from FSG before Friday's deadline, there is a growing if cautious belief that Brendan Rodgers' current group may just have enough about them to secure a season of Champions League japes in the campaign to come. Were that to materialise, I predict a delirious bout of Danny dancing and sky-pointing, at least on my part.

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