Divock Origi
Divock Origi celebrates after scoring the second of his three goals for Liverpool against Southampton. Reuters

Divock Origi netted a hat-trick and Daniel Sturridge returned in style to score twice and help Liverpool surge back from behind to thump Southampton 6-1 in the quarterfinals of the Capital One Cup at St Mary’s. Sadio Mane had stunned an in-form Liverpool side when heading in Ryan Bertrand’s cross into the net after just 41 seconds, but from there on out it was almost all one-way traffic directed by the visitors. Liverpool recovered in sparkling fashion, aided first by two quick-fire goals from their returning striker, before Divock Origi got off the mark for Liverpool in emphatic fashion.

It was a near-perfect night for the Merseysiders, but the performance of Sturridge was arguably the highlight. Making just his third start of the season and first since October, Sturridge reminded Liverpool fans that he still has plenty to offer after 15 months of injury hell. Manager Jurgen Klopp had stated last week that there needed to be a better differentiation between “what is serious pain and what is only pain” after Sturridge suffered yet another niggling problem. And the former Chelsea forward certainly looked sharp on Wednesday.

Both goals were clinically taken, and came within just five minutes of each other. First he seized on Joe Allen’s fine early pass forward, before easily befuddling Virgil van Dijk in the box to create space for a shot, which he drilled low and left-footed into the far corner of the net. If the first goal had been good, the second was even better, not least because of how it was created.

Emre Can, when used at all, was generally utilized as a center-back under previous manager Brendan Rodgers, but he provided a brilliant example of just how useful he can be further forward. Having skillfully wrong-footed a defender, the Germany international then played an inch-perfect pass with the outside of his right foot to find Sturridge, who finished at the first time of asking.

As with the first, it was the type of thrilling goal that Liverpool produced with such regularity during their march to the verge of the Premier League title two seasons ago, but which had not been seen since then, before the arrival of Klopp. Now with four wins on the bounce, Klopp’s impact at Anfield continues to grow. And through to a two-legged semifinal, Liverpool are closing in on a record ninth League Cup win and a lifting a trophy less than five months into his reign.

Victory on Wednesday was all-but secured before the interval, when Southampton could only half-clear a corner, and Moreno drilled a powerful low shot that Origi just touched past Maarten Stekelenburg. If there was any doubt whether Origi’s touch had been intentional enough for it to go down as his first goal in a Liverpool shirt, there was no question that the long-awaited moment had arrived midway through the second half.

Just on as a substitute, Jordan Ibe cut in from the right and fed a pass through to Origi, who, with no hesitation, lashed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net. Five minutes later, Ibe himself got on the scoresheet, drilling a low effort from just inside the box after a cut-back from Moreno. There was still time for Origi to truly make it a night to remember for the young Belgian, as he headed substitute Brad Smith’s cross past an utterly beleaguered Stekelenburg.

It was an encounter that could hardly have gone much better for Liverpool and Klopp. Not only was there the emphatic result, but it was achieved by making six changes to his lineup after a recent hectic schedule, handing rests to the likes of James Milner, Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino and Nathaniel Clyne. It was a night that also saw, not only Sturridge make a starring return, but captain Jordan Henderson earn some more vital minutes on his return from injury after coming on as a substitute.