The top players have a way of being in the right place at the exact right moment. Daniel Sturridge found himself in such a position with 10 minutes remaining against Southampton and didn't miss, tapping in what would be the game-winning goal to give the Reds a 2-1 triumph in their opening game.
After a first-half goal from Raheem Sterling—and the absolutely scintillating through ball from Jordan Henderson that sprung him—Southampton equalised early in the second half and looked the better team for long stretches of the second 45. It appeared that Liverpool were, at best, going to open the year with a solitary point.
But late in the game, a Steven Gerrard cross deflected to Sterling, who nodded a header toward goal. Sturridge, kept onside by the Saints defense, had only to nick the ball into the corner of the net. Here's a look at that decisive touch, via FourFourTwo:
As Gary Lineker noted, it was the sort of goal indicative of a certain type of player:
And over the past year, Sturridge has certainly been that type of player. Consider the following from WhoScored.com on Twitter:
Natural born goalscorer is @D_Sturridge . Can't be taught. He just gets it!— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 17, 2014
Or this, from Squawka Football:
Daniel Sturridge: Has now scored as many goals (22) in his last 30 PL apps as he had in his previous 64 #lfc— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) August 17, 2014
The fact that Sturridge and Sterling had their hands in both goals will be a welcome sign for Liverpool supporters. With Luis Suarez shipped off to Barcelona this summer—and Liverpool not signing an elite forward to replace him—the onus is now on players like Sturridge and Sterling to pick up the goalscoring torch.
Sturridge doesn't think that will be a problem, per BBC Sport:
Given the season Sturridge had last year—and the start the duo have had to this season—Liverpool supporters can breathe easy, at least for the moment.
Of course, he also admitted that Southampton gave them all they could handle, per the Premier League on Twitter:
Daniel Sturridge: "Are we stronger this season? I think so. No disrespect to Luis. He's a great player & will be missed but we move on" #lfc— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) August 17, 2014
Of course, this wasn't Sturridge's finest performance. While he had the winner, he wasn't always a huge factor in the proceedings. WhoScored.com gave him a 7.4 match rating, with three total shots and one dribble won.
The combination of Sturridge and Suarez put so much pressure on opposing back lines last season. With Sturridge now likely to play as the lone forward in the setup, it will be interesting to see how he responds to the added responsibility of leading the line.
So far, so good for Sturridge and Liverpool. But stiffer challenges await as the Premier League season rolls on.