Liverpool’s stunning 4-0 victory over Everton at Anfield was the performance and result that dreams are made of.
All the build up prior to the game talked about how this was perhaps the biggest Merseyside derby of the last 30 years, with the two teams separated by just a single point in the table, and well in the hunt for Champions League qualification.
In fact, you could have argued the fixture was perhaps the Reds biggest league game since the title chasing season of 2008/2009.
With so much at stake, nobody could have quite imagined the manner in which the Reds swept aside an Everton team that prior to the game had lost just two Premier League matches all season, whilst not conceding more than one in a match since that unforgettable 3-3 draw at Goodison Park in November.
There was so much to be admired from Brendan Rodgers free-flowing side, who tore the Everton defence open time and time again during a ruthless first 45 minutes.
And the star of that magnificent first half showing was Daniel Sturridge.
The England striker has been at Anfield for over a year now, since arriving for Chelsea for £12million last January – and what a year it has been.
Sturridge’s statistics have often been overlooked during his first year at Anfield, as strike partner Luis Suarez has deservedly grabbed the headlines with performances that have seen him widely classed as the best striker in the world.
But Sturridge looked every inch a world class striker during the first 45 minutes at Anfield last night, and took his goal tally to 16 for the season, with two fine finishes.
Sturridge has in fact now managed 23 Premier League goals in 25 appearances since completing his move to Anfield on January 2nd 2012, including six in his last five, and five in the four games since his comeback from injury.
But whilst there was plenty to be admired from Sturridge once more last night, he was also responsible for perhaps the only negative during a match that may go down as perhaps the most memorable of Brendan Rodgers tenure so far.
Sturridge was given the opportunity to complete his hat trick from the spot early in the second half, only to blast his penalty high and hopelessly into the Kop.
All players are capable of missing penalties of course, but the manner in which Sturridge seemed to completely lose his way after the miss bought about a bit of concern.
He was guilty of another poor miss on 69 minutes, when played through by the superb Phillipe Coutinho on the left hand side.
Sturridge displayed another moment of selfishness – a trait we have witnessed a fair few times during his first twelve months at Anfield – shooting wide into the Kop, rather than looking for the better placed Coutinho, or Luis Suarez – who made no secret of what he thought of his strike partners decision.
Sturridge was replaced two minutes later by Victor Moses, and his subsequent reaction to his managers decision was another blot on what had previously been looking like the perfect evening for the Reds number 15.
But without a doubt, the roller-coaster experience he went through during last nights clash will stand him in better stead for the future.
Sturridge was often accused of being selfish, whilst teetering on the verge of arrogant during his spell at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea fans weren’t too disappointed to see the back of him at the time, despite his obvious talent.
He has come on leaps and bounds since his move to Anfield, with Brendan Rodgers decision to play him as a central striker vindicated time and again.
His overall game and attitude has also improved tremendously, almost from the moment he arrived.
His link up play with Luis Suarez has seen him labelled a part of the best strike partnership in the league, whilst he has also shown a willingness to track back and work hard for the team.
He has started the last two games wide left of a front three, with license to drift and interchange with Suarez.
One moment against Everton he was defending as a left back, the next he was racing through to lob Tim Howard with a perfectly executed finish.
All the signs have been there that Daniel Sturridge can emulate his strike partner and go on to be considered a ‘world class’ centre forward.
His manager, and his captain have both echoed those thoughts.
But his second half showing last night exposed the weaknesses he still has in his game, and perhaps the only traits holding him back to taking that next step.
His selfishness in front of goal has often been noted, and whilst you can argue it is often the mark of a great striker – you only have to look at the way Luis Suarez has changed that aspect of his game this season to see where further improvements can be made.
The other concern was the way in which he seemed to let the frustration of his missed penalty get the better of him.
It affected his decision making on the pitch for the remainder of the second half, and surely played a part in his brief exchange with Rodgers following his substitution.
He made all the right noises after the game, by apologizing to anyone who was ‘offended’ by his reaction, whilst also blaming the frustration of the missed penalty on his second half performance.
“I apologise for my reaction. I was disappointed by missing the penalty and felt I’d let myself down as well as the fans,” he said.
“The hat-trick would have been the icing on the cake and it’s unfortunate. I was disappointed with myself. It was nothing to do with the manager and I’d like to apologise for my reaction if anybody took any offence. It’s not about me, it’s about the boys and a great victory.”
His insistence it is about the team rather than personal glory has been a constant feature of Sturridge’s post match interviews during his time at Liverpool, but his second half display made that hard to believe.
Brendan Rodgers handled the incident perfectly, insisting it was simply a tactical decision.
“I felt the change balanced the team back up and there was no problem. I think he was a little frustrated after the penalty and he apologised to the group,” Rodgers explained.
“He hasn’t done that [shown disrespect]. He was frustrated he missed the penalty. It was a brilliant performance from him.”
Whilst Rodgers downplayed the incident, you can be sure that behind closed doors he will be doing his utmost to ensure Sturridge learns his lesson, and uses it as another stepping stone on his journey to becoming the world class striker we all believe he can be.
He looked every inch that player during the first 45 minutes, before selfishness got the better of him in the second half.
Of course, exceptions can be made when chasing a hat trick in a Merseyside derby, but Rodgers is a manager insistent that the good of the team comes before anything else.
Sturridge has followed that idea 85% of the time during his first year at Liverpool.
Once he takes on that idea fully, then perhaps we will be able to consider ourselves to have two world class strikers plying their trade at Anfield.