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Deconstructing Daniel Sturridge's Equalizer vs. Crystal Palace

Liverpool drew level yesterday on the strength of patient buildup and sublime technique, and it was a goal worth exploring in-depth.

Clive Rose/Getty Images

Liverpool do not typically do "calm" when they're trailing, but yesterday at Crystal Palace they produced a resilient performance in the face of a one-goal deficit and recent history that suggested they were in trouble. That newfound calmness allowed them to dominate the second half and eventually take the lead, and, once they were in front, to see out the victory that secured progress to the quarterfinals of the FA Cup. They'll find out their opponents tomorrow, but for now they can be proud of a victory that, considering the context, is rightly being praised as one of their more impressive in the past few months.

Their patience was exemplified in the buildup to the equalizer, which saw them work to the edge of the Palace penalty area before recycling possession back through Mamadou Sakho, whose benign pass to Joe Allen in central midfield kicked off a sequence that would end with Daniel Sturridge's wonderful volley through the legs of Julian Speroni. The goal in its entirety can be found here via the FA's official You Tube channel.

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With Sturridge off-frame to the left, Allen can either push play wide to Emre Can or Adam Lallana, who's more advanced on the wing, or take a chance trying to thread it through to Mario Balotelli or Jordan Henderson, both of whom will settle in the space between Crystal Palace's rigid banks of four. With plenty of time and space given how deep Palace's midfield four were, Allen was able to pick his pass, and, for a player who's often maligned for not providing enough attacking threat, he opts to slide a pass into Henderson on the right.

With Sturridge now back onside, Henderson will have a handful of options once he gathers possession, but none of them are particularly obvious at this point. The cluster of Palace defenders limit his opportunities for any flat/lateral crosses, meaning that he'll either have to skip play out wide on the first touch or take his chances in possession until a more threatening option becomes available.

A major critique of Balotelli's play as a lone forward has been that he tends to drop too deep, and were he the only identified forward here, it would again be valid. After being level with the Palace back line when Allen passed to Henderson, the Italian is now deeper than his midfield counterpart. The presence of Sturridge makes it more appropriate, however, as there's still an option further forward. Space is open for Henderson to play it to Balotelli, technically, but that option likely would have stalled the attack given the number of defenders in close proximity.

Same moment, different angle, but it underlines how impressive that Henderson cross would prove to be. Surrounded by four defenders, all of whom are roughly a couple feet away, the midfielder manages to thread a curling cross through two of them and over Scott Dann, who's in between him and Sturridge running toward the far post.

Martin Kelly slips in between Sturridge and Dann as well, but the cross curls around the former Liverpool fullback, and rather than challenge for a header, the recently returned striker decides to rearrange his footing to hit it on the volley with his left foot. It's an audacious, arrogant decision, one that demands perfect timing and technique to make contact, let alone put it on frame.

And of course, he does all those things, letting it fall to his left and smashing it through the legs of Speroni. It would be difficult to say just how hard this was to execute considering that most aren't capable of even getting into that space and making such a decision, but this is just an astonishing piece of skill.

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Daniel Sturridge was by no means perfect yesterday, but in this moment, he did everything asked of him and more. From getting back onside to breaking the defensive line at the perfect time to get on the end of Henderson's well-placed cross to executing a perfect volley, it was a wonderful striker's goal, and exactly the type of thing Liverpool had missed in his absence. And, even better, it produced this:

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