London - Jurgen
Klopp praised Daniel Sturridge's ability to make a difference off the
bench after his sensational strike a minute from time preserved
Liverpool's unbeaten start to the Premier League in a 1-1 draw at
Chelsea on Saturday.
Sturridge has endured an injury-ravaged three years since Klopp took
charge at Anfield and was loaned out to relegated West Brom for the
second half of last season.
But despite playing a reserve role to Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah
and Sadio Mane, Sturridge has now scored four goals in seven appearances
"The whole dressing room was pretty much dancing. He had such a difficult time but now he has a wonderful time," said Klopp.
"Coming in and being fresh and making decisions is so important. It was a fantastic goal.
"He had a full pre-season and is in best shape since I know him."
For the second time in four days Eden Hazard seemed set to haunt
Liverpool as, after deciding a League Cup tie between the pair on
Wednesday, the Belgian fired Chelsea in front on 25 minutes.
But Sturridge's late intervention means Liverpool move level on
points with Manchester City at the top of the table ahead of a huge
clash between the two at Anfield next weekend.
Chelsea are just two points back in third and showed their own title
credentials by continuing an unbeaten start under Maurizio Sarri with an
impressive defensive display complemented by Hazard's class at the
other end of the field.
Sarri has routinely insisted Chelsea can't challenge Liverpool or
City for the title, but admitted he his side are closer than he thought
after two meetings with Liverpool.
"No, I think they are further forward," said the Italian when asked
if Chelsea are title contenders. "But I think also we are more close
than I thought one week ago."
Salah was back for Liverpool after being crowned the third best player in the world for the past year by FIFA on Monday.
But the dead eye for goal the Egyptian showed last season to earn
that accolade ahead of the likes of Lionel Messi and Hazard, was missing
before he was replaced by Xherdan Shaqiri 25 minutes from time.
"It was not Mo's best game of his career for sure," added Klopp.
"It's like riding a bike and it's not that you wake up in the morning and cannot ride a bike anymore. He just has to work."
Twice Salah wriggled into clear shooting positions on his favoured
left foot on the edge of the box inside the first 10 minutes, but his
first tame effort was easily saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga before he blazed
his second high and wide.
Just as in midweek when Hazard came off the bench to win the game
with a stunning individual run and finish, Liverpool were undone by a
moment of magic from Chelsea's number 10.
Hazard was picked out by a fine through ball from Mateo Kovacic.
Although he was forced onto his weaker left foot Hazard still managed to
drill the ball low past Alisson Becker for his seventh goal of the
Salah should have levelled against his old club just after the half
hour mark when he outmuscled Marcos Alonso and rounded Kepa, but his
goalbound effort was cleared off the line by Antonio Rudiger.
The world's two most expensive goalkeepers were on show and Kepa and
Alisson showed why they cost a combined £140 million with
big saves around the hour mark. First Kepa denied Mane an equaliser and
then Alisson stopped Hazard scoring his second.
Shaqiri sliced a huge chance wide and David Luiz then hacked
Firmino's header off the line as Liverpool seemed set to be held
scoreless for the first time since they last visited Chelsea in May.
However, Sturridge succeeded where Liverpool's first-choice front
three had failed with a spectacular dipping effort from 25 yards against
his old club to again prove his worth in Klopp's bid to end a 29-year
wait to win the title.