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Fitness Concerns Kept Sturridge from Penalty Shoot Out

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If you were hoping that Daniel Sturridge's absence from Liverpool's penalty line-up had anything to do with his motivation, you're welcome to think again.

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There are few things worse for a footballer than missing a penalty in a cup final. You feel like you've let your teammates down, you've let the fans down, and in some countries those who have missed have been known to go missing themselves once returning home. But for the reasonable fan or the self-aware player, there's some pride to be had even for those whose shots were saved or just failed to find the target all together. It's a small consolation when the red X graphic appears on screen, but at the very least you can say you had the courage to try.

Good Canadian boy Wayne Gretzky is famous for saying that you miss 100% of the shots you don't take, and in the aftermath of a poor showing during a penalty shoot out for what could have been Jürgen Klopp's first piece of silverware as Liverpool manager, fingers quickly started being pointed in a variety of directions. Klopp was quick to clarify that some who might come under greater scrutiny than others didn't necessarily choose not to participate in the lackluster spot kick showing.

"There was no chance for Daniel (Sturridge), he had cramps for the last few minutes," Klopp explained of his star striker's absence from the penalty line-up. "Everybody who was available took a penalty. We asked the players and these five players said 'yes'.

"We probably should have shot a little bit better than we did. The lads did brilliantly, they know how it works normally but today was not too difficult for the goalkeeper. We were not too lucky, Simon (Mignolet) was really close a few times for us. That's how it is and at the end we have to accept we lost."

Though disappointing in the moment -- and perhaps for a bit as a post-cup final hangover -- Liverpool's loss feels less deeply tragic in the larger context of where the club is headed. Few would suggest that they won't be back in a cup final under Klopp again in the future, and so while this loss will sting until Wednesday at the very earliest when Liverpool once more face Manchester City, there is an underlying hope that this is the first of many opportunities for silverware under the German manager.