Sturridge leads Valentine’s Day massacre of Villa
Sport Premier League
Aston Villa post-match analysis, which in truth was more of a post-mortem than a press conference, the French manager was asked if he would be considering his position after Villa’s worst home loss since 1935. “I have answered the last question,” he said, making his exit. Either he was following media room etiquette after the microphone had been pulled away or inviting ambiguity as many wondered if he could stomach any more days like this. Villa’s scouts should save themselves the bother of assessing the next Premier League opponents and dispatch themselves to Championship venues in preparation for next season. Liverpool could have been forgiven for thinking they were experiencing their second consecutive walkout. For 77 minutes against ticket prices last week read 71 against boardroom judgments this one – the time on which Kolo Touré headed the visitors’ sixth. Randy Lerner was the subject of the Villa fans’ taunts as they stared in disbelief and revulsion at the wreckage of a proud club. If you want to offer any consolation to Villa – not that it was deserved – they must feel persecuted by Daniel Sturridge, whose only league goals this season have been against the same side. When Sturridge plays, everyone at Liverpool looks, feels and performs better. For all of Villa’s numerous deficiencies it was the imprint left by the returning Sturridge that was both thrilling and infuriating for Jürgen Klopp, his manager. There is an alternative reality in both this season and the last, where Liverpool have their main asset fit and available and are able to build on the foundation of their near miss in the title race of two seasons ago. No club should be so dependent on one player, but to lose Sturridge is the equivalent of Barcelona missing Lionel Messi. Sturridge’s movement enabled midfielders such as Emre Can to enjoy his most complete game for the club, and overlapping full-back Nathaniel Clyne to make the most of the empty spaces as Villa briefly, forlornly, considered the merits of trying to stop the onslaught. Klopp also benefited from Philippe Coutinho’s return, his interplay with Sturridge and Roberto Firmino a delight. Coutinho was the provider for Sturridge’s opening goal, a closerange header it would be tempting to describe as straightforward were it not for the fact crosses to Liverpool strikers occupying the six-yard box have been so rare. Once James Milner consolidated the lead by drifting in a free-kick that Villa’s defenders and goalkeeper Mark Bunn misjudged, the home fans were already fearing how many they would concede. Their terrors were realised when Can struck the third soon after the break and Liverpool added three more in eight second-half minutes – Divock Origi, Clyne and Touré the scorers.