Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: 'No guarantees' for Daniel Sturridge
Bournemouth 1-2 Liverpool
Daniel Sturridge reinforced his claims to be part of Liverpool's long-term future under Jurgen Klopp, providing the assist for Roberto Firmino's opening goal before adding the second in the 2-1 victory over Bournemouth. Klopp, though, offered no guarantees the striker will start against Everton in Wednesday's Merseyside derby.
For the second time in two weeks, Sturridge provided the ideal response to being left out of the starting line-up for the Europa League meeting with Borussia Dortmund. After the first leg, he returned with a goal against Stoke and made a similarly impressive contribution in the wake of Thursday's second leg victory.
Sturridge's inclusion was one of 10 changes made by Klopp and while the manager was keen to spread praise around his unfamiliar looking team and keep the focus away from the striker, there was no doubt the England forward's contribution was decisive.
He could have added to his tally but for the woodwork and his goal provided the cushion that ensured Liverpool withstood Bournemouth's late rally that brought a goal from Joshua King.
"Yes (it was the response I wanted)," said Klopp. "He is in really good shape, mentally and physically it's really good, and for us so important, because, for example, Roberto Firmino now has a (injury) problem after he was in perfect shape."
But the manager added: "Nobody is undroppable. I never look at any player and think 'I can't leave him out'. As a manager I decide if I play with one, two, three or four strikers."
Klopp handed a debut to Danny Ward, the young Wales goalkeeper, and named youngsters Connor Randall, Brad Smith, Kevin Stewart and Sheyi Ojo in his starting XI.
"We did not risk the same line-up against this highly-athletic team," said Klopp. "That's why we changed it. I'm really pleased for the boys, for all of them, how they played. They were really brilliant."
It was Sturridge who stood out in the first-half, with his back-heel effort forcing keeper Artur Boruc to save and allow Firmino to follow up from close range in the 41st minute. Then, in first-half added time, Sturridge gave Liverpool breathing space when he rose to head home from Jordon Ibe's cross.
The game should have been over six minutes into the second-half when Joe Allen again found Sturridge, this time sending the forward clear on Boruc's goal. Sturridge went for the eye-catching chip and was left frustrated as his effort drifted narrowly wide.
The miss would not prove costly as Ward produced a number of fine saves to deny Bournemouth until King finally replied in added time.
Cherries boss Eddie Howe said: "We didn't put enough pressure on them. I don't think we can say we deserved anything. We were missing that spark, especially in the first-half. You have to give Liverpool credit."