Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge took the plaudits with both goals as they reached the League Cup quarter-finals but the 2-1 home win over Tottenham Hotspur was another step forward for two other strikers also battling to become permanent starters.
Divock Origi heard his name sung with great gusto by Liverpool supporters on the Kop after a high-octane performance before the 21-year-old eventually gave way for Danny Ings to make a rare appearance after an injury-disrupted year.
All three strikers are behind Roberto Firmino in the pecking order and manager Jurgen Klopp has a challenge to keep them all motivated in a season where Liverpool have no European football.
Origi, who played at the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016 with Belgium, is now a League Cup specialist with his club, starting all three games in the competition and scoring in two of them. He believes they can win the trophy for a record ninth time.
“We’re here and we want to go until the end,” he said after Tuesday’s win in a match where both clubs fielded second-string sides. “It won’t be easy, but we showed a lot of character.
“We just have to play with a big heart every time and I’m sure that we have the quality to go until the end,” he told the club’s website (www.liverpoolfc.com).
Although Origi showed a good understanding with Sturridge, who benefited from his tireless running and clever link-ups, Klopp appears reluctant to pair them in the Premier League.
Instead, he prefers the Brazilian Firmino as a sole striker or, as against Manchester United in last week’s goalless draw at Anfield, positioned behind England forward Sturridge, with Origi primed to come off the bench.
“Of course, it’s been a while since I played 90 minutes so you have to get in the game,” said Origi, who almost scored with one 20-metre shot that drew a fingertip save from Spurs keeper Michel Vorm.
“I think we tried to look for each other and we’re very happy that Daniel scored. He’s a top striker, we created the chances all together and it’s a good thing that we have a lot of options everywhere.”
Among those options is Ings, who came on for Origi in the 68th minute for only his second appearance of the season, the other also coming in the League Cup against Derby County when Liverpool were already 3-0 up.
Ings also drew a huge ovation from the fans after making his first Anfield appearance for a year. At 24, the former Burnley striker is three years older than Origi and has struggled for game time since being injured in Klopp’s first training session a year ago.
“He is fit now, everything is good and, with his attitude, all will be good in the end,” said Klopp ahead of the game. “You can be a really good player and you cannot even be in the squad.”