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Watch: Daniel Sturridge vs. West Ham United

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The performance wasn't perfect, but a goal and an inspired attacking display over the final twenty minutes left Liverpool supporters plenty optimistic about the impact of Daniel Sturridge.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

For years, one of the main criticisms of Liverpool has been that they are a one-man team. Steven Gerrard, at his peak, could earn results with a moment of magic, and at various points through their all-too-brief careers on Merseyside, Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez were able to save points from what seemed like nothing in both domestic and continental competition. Their influence was no doubt vital, but to say that they did it on their own--as great as their individual talents were--always seemed unfair.

So it's never felt quite right to claim that the fate of Liverpool's season depended on the fitness of Daniel Sturridge, especially for a fanbase who's spent most of the last decade denying accusations that one player's presence had such an impact, but there was certainly a Sturridge-shaped hole in this Liverpool squad since the end of August, and his return on Saturday afternoon made that clear.

The 25-year-old striker was obviously working his way back to match fitness and didn't have an overwhelming cameo, but he managed to provide everything Liverpool have been missing. Raheem Sterling got the opener after a frustrating 50 minutes in front of goal for the hosts, but in ten minutes as a substitute Sturridge, after only a handful of touches to varying degrees of success, managed to leave the result in little doubt with a perfect first touch and fine right-footed finish past Adrian at the near post.

What's most encouraging is that it's clear he needs to  shake off the rust and get more accustomed to the passing game. His stamina needs improving and he looked nowhere near finishing a full half of football at full speed. And yet, in a twenty minute appearance, he provided a decisive goal, something this Liverpool squad have been lacking for far too long, and he lifted the squad's spirit going forward in a manner that's rarely been seen since he fell injured on international duty with England in early September.

Video by MrBoywunder