Home > Sport > Football
Sunday August 25, 2013 MYT 5:23:25 AM
Sunday August 25, 2013 MYT 5:23:43 AM
by toby davis
Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge (L) goes around Aston Villa's Brad Guzan to score during their English Premier League football match at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England, August 24, 2013. REUTERS/Darren Staples
LONDON (Reuters) - Daniel Sturridge and Kolo Toure were both cast aside by clubs who traditionally vie for the Premier League title but they have found a home at Liverpool and proven their worth in the opening two matches of the season.
Sturridge, signed from Chelsea for 12 million pounds ($18.71 million) in January, was deemed surplus to requirements among Roman Abramovich's squad of A-list players, but has scored the winner in both Liverpool's Premier League clashes.
His goal against Aston Villa on Saturday was a combination of deft skill and sublime balance and followed on from his match-winning strike against Stoke City last weekend, a fizzing drive from distance.
Since leaving Stamford Bridge he has been employed in the central striking role that he has always craved, but was frequently made to forego at Stamford Bridge and has now scored 13 goals in his 18 appearances for the Merseyside club.
A player who visibly thrives on confidence and wears the full gamut of emotions on his sleeve, Sturridge says his transformation is a simple matter of being given a platform on which to perform.
"I am just playing my normal game - I have matured a little bit in terms of confidence and playing regularly," he told Sky Sports on Saturday.
"This is how I have been as a kid, but I've now been given a chance to show what I can do in a first-team environment."
Toure, a title winner with both Manchester City and Arsenal, was released on a free transfer when his deal at the Etihad Stadium came to an end.
Having spent a lot of last season kicking his heels on the bench, he has brought experience to a Liverpool backline shorn of leadership following the retirement of Jamie Carragher at the end of the last campaign.
His presence at the heart of the Liverpool defence was particularly noticeable against Villa where he stood up to the physical threat of powerhouse Christian Benteke and came out on top to help Liverpool keep their second clean sheet in a row.
"He (Toure) has been brilliant," Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said.
"Obviously you know Jamie Carragher well and it was very important to get someone in of a similar ilk.
"We need that experience. He's 32, he's fit and he's got that winning mentality and he's been very influential in the changing room."
After Liverpool's win against Stoke on the opening weekend, Rodgers spoke of a renewed sense of optimism within the dressing room.
On Saturday, he spoke about the team's tactical discipline to subdue a Villa team that had scored three times against Arsenal last weekend and troubled Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
"It was a terrific win for us. I thought first half we had good control of the game and scored an excellent goal," he said.
"I thought we were calm on the ball in the first half. We were fluid in our game, there was good movement.
"We had half an idea on controlling it, the balance of the team when we have the ball, because if you open up too much against these, they can really hurt you with their pace on the counter-attack.
"I thought our positioning was good, mentality was good and tactically we fell back into our shape very well in the first half. Second half, of course you expect a bit more pressure from them. But, all in all, although Simon (Mignolet) had to make a couple of good saves, it was about the three points today and we got the three."
Next up for Liverpool is a League Cup clash with Notts County on Tuesday, before they host traditional rivals Manchester United at Anfield next Sunday in what is likely to be the first real test of their top-four credentials.
($1 = 0.6413 British pounds)
(Editing by Rex Gowar)
Copyright © 1995-2013 Star Publications (M) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)