Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge believes talented team-mates will make it easier for him to continue to score goals as he makes his return from injury.
The 25-year-old ended five months of injury frustration with the second in the 2-0 win over West Ham, finding the net with a clinical finish just 12 minutes after coming on as substitute.
Playmaker Philippe Coutinho, who laid on the first for Raheem Sterling, returned the ball to the England striker after he had cut in from the right and despite a 153-day absence with thigh and calf problems he produced a brilliant first touch and a devastating second to suggest his predatory instincts have not diminished while he has been away.
It was his 37th goal in 53 appearances since joining the club two years ago – a period in which he has had his fair share of injuries. Critics may have suggested many of his 24 goals last season came courtesy of the even more prolific Luis Suarez but now that partnership with the Uruguay international is no more Sturridge hopes he can link up just as effectively with other players.
“It was a great feeling to help my team-mates get three points,” he said. “That’s the most important thing – to just be out there and helping the team win games.
“It was great play by Coutinho. We have a great relationship in terms of he knows my runs and I know the types of passes he likes to play as well. He makes my job easier.
“Once I saw him cut inside I knew the ball would come and it was just a case of getting it under control and hitting the target.”
In Sturridge’s absence Sterling has been pressed into the role of central striker, mainly to utilise his blistering pace, and a return of five goals in his last 10 games suggests he has not done too bad a job.
He will now drop into a slightly withdrawn position to accommodate Sturridge but is still expected to continue contributing goals.
“He’s done extremely well. He’s working hard and I’m proud of him as his ‘older brother’ to look at him and see how well he’s done,” Sturridge told LFCTV. “I just hope he continues to work hard and play in the way he has because he’s improving every single day.
“He takes it in his stride – he doesn’t get too big-headed, he doesn’t get overly confident with anything. “I take him under my arm when he goes through difficult times as well, but I give him all the credit in the world and I’m really proud of him.”
Sterling’s cool finish, sliding the ball past Adrian from Coutinho’s inventive pass, suggested he is developing into a better goalscorer but it was not until Sturridge arrived that Liverpool possessed the threat up front which has been lacking for most of the season.
West Ham have not won at Anfield since 1963 but, heading into the game above their hosts, they would have fancied their chances. For that to happen though they needed their big players, ex-Reds Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing and striker Enner Valencia, to be on top form.
The former landed flailing forearms on Emre Can and Lazar Markovic in the first half and a high foot on Can which resulted in a booking and an injury which forced Carroll off soon after. Downing was overwhelmed in midfield while Valencia got no joy out of Martin Skrtel.
Liverpool are unbeaten in seven league matches and have won three in a row for the first time since April.