Liverpool's 2-1 victory in the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday over Mansfield Town will likely be defined by the controversial game-winning goal by the Reds. But the debut of newly acquired striker Daniel Sturridge has to be extremely encouraging for Brendan Rodgers' club moving forward, as he found the net first for the Reds.
Sturridge's presence on the attack is just what Liverpool has been searching for—and what the squad needs to emerge as a legitimate contender in the English Premier League for the 2012-13 season.
Although the Reds currently sit in eighth in the table, there is an added element that Sturridge could provide for the offense that could get Liverpool in position to make a trophy push.
The Reds have been searching for another star scorer to place alongside Luis Suarez—who notched the second goal despite a handball that wasn't called. If his first appearance with Liverpool is any indication, Sturridge is just as stellar as advertised.
He is only 23 years old, but Sturridge is no stranger to the big stage. Starting off with Manchester City in 2006 and migrating to Chelsea in 2009 placed Sturridge squarely in the spotlight as a mere teenager, and his game suggests that is where he belongs.
That notion was further fortified on Sunday in Nottinghamshire. Despite playing just one EPL match with Chelsea due to a nagging hamstring injury, there were few signs of Sturridge not being in adequate condition to dominate offensively. He notched his first goal with his new club in just the seventh minute he occupied the pitch.
After the fixture on Sunday, Rodgers expressed his contentment with what Sturridge brought to the attack for the Reds (h/t LiverpoolFC.com):
I thought [Sturridge] was excellent. He's nowhere near fit yet, he's come in off the back of an injury and hasn't done a lot of training. I think you saw in that cameo today of 55 minutes his pace, his power and he scored a good goal. He probably could have had three goals. It was a good introduction for him, a tough one because Mansfield were very committed.
With more time to catch up on his fitness as Liverpool prepares for the stretch run of the EPL season, Sturridge could definitely be just the spark the Reds need on offense to shoot up the table even further.
Rodgers hinted even before Sturridge's impressive debut that he will take over his preferred position of centre-forward, which is where Suarez typically plays, according to a report by John Edwards of the Daily Mail.
Suarez substituted in for Sturridge against Mansfield in an effort to ease the new star into action.
However, that doesn't mean that's how it will always be, because having that pair on the field at the same time would create a formidable one-two punch if Suarez can adjust to playing on the wing.
According to Michael Cox of the Guardian, though, it may be Sturridge who has to change positions, leaving the incumbent Suarez at his post. Cox points out that Suarez has recorded 123 shots—many of those self-manufactured—which are 34 more than the next-highest man.
Regardless of how Rodgers chooses to use his top two threats on the attack, Liverpool definitely has more firepower with Sturridge in the fold.
That enhancement should serve the club well for this season and beyond against the EPL's elite.