DANIEL STURRIDGE somehow managed to sound disappointed with his efforts after scoring twice to lead Liverpool to a 4-0 thrashing of city rivals Everton at Anfield.
The England striker scored two in as many minutes just after the half-hour mark to put Liverpool 3-0 up, but later missed a penalty and was substituted moments after blowing another chance to seal a hat-trick.
Sturridge was visibly upset as he came off but insisted he was frustrated only with himself and not manager Brendan Rodgers for taking him off.
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‘‘I apologise for my reaction,’’ he said on BT Sport. ‘‘I was disappointed by missing the penalty and felt I’d let myself down as well as the fans. 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.’’ Rodgers insisted there was no problem with Sturridge.
‘‘I think he was frustrated because he didn’t get the penalty,’’ he said. ‘‘A manager can make substitutions for all sorts of reasons - tactical, a player not playing well, and that certainly wasn’t the case tonight.
‘‘I always say, however you feel, keep it to yourself and speak to me the next day. I think he was just a little bit frustrated after a missed penalty.’’ Asked about the importance of the win, Rodgers added: ‘‘It’s another three points in terms of where we want to go.
‘‘It’s a massive victory over rivals close to us.
‘‘If you look at Everton they’ve only conceded 11 goals away from home before tonight and for us to get four and to maybe have had a few more is very pleasing.’’ Captain Steven Gerrard, who opened the scoring after 21 minutes, made the decision to hand Sturridge the ball for the penalty as he wanted his team-mate to experience – as he has in the past – a hat-trick against Everton.
‘‘I take responsibility for that,’’ Gerrard said. ‘‘I’ve scored a hat-trick against Everton and I wanted Daniel to experience that feeling.
I’m sure the disappointment will see him strive to do better.’’ The win sees Liverpool move within six points of the top of the table, three points clear in fourth of Tottenham who face Manchester City on Wednesday, and staying in that top four remains the Reds’ first priority as they seek a return to the Champions League.
‘‘That’s our target and it’s been our target since preseason,’’ Gerrard said.
‘‘We’ve got two world class forwards and against anyone we’ve got a chance.’’ Everton looked a long way from the form which has kept them in that same Champions League battle so far as they fell four points off Liverpool’s pace.
A night which began with Ross Barkley making an early return from the injury list ended with on-loan striker Romelu Lukaku hobbling off, and Roberto Martinez admitted his side were not up to scratch. ‘‘Our performance wasn’t anywhere near our level and that’s down to a combination of things,’’ he said.
‘‘In the first half we never really had that intensity you need and there are reasons for that. We have too many injuries, and we’re bringing players back maybe a little too early.
‘‘We weren’t ourselves - we lost possession, we were exposed too often and we conceded the first goal from a dead-ball situation. The only other time we’ve done that was against Liverpool at Goodison.
‘‘There were too many things that stopped us being ourselves and allowed us to be so naive and exposed. It was nowhere near our standard and we want to move on from this and learn some quick lessons.’’