Jurgen Klopp says Divock Origi is ready to make the most of a potential run in the Liverpool team after scoring his first Premier League goal since April.
It was only a potentially serious-looking ankle injury to Philippe Coutinho which allowed the Belgium international to be on the pitch to make the crucial breakthrough in the 2-0 win over Sunderland but as he was the only fit senior forward there was little choice for his manager.
Coutinho’s ankle injury will be assessed over the next 24 hours but the sight of compatriot Roberto Firmino coming off with a calf problem late on was also a concern.
A similar injury had ruled Daniel Sturridge out of the game while fellow forward Danny Ings is out for the season with a knee injury, Adam Lallana is still not fit after a groin strain sustained on England duty and young winger Sheyi Ojo has not fully recovered from a back problem.
Klopp knows any lengthy period without these players, especially heading into the busiest month of the season, could derail their burgeoning title bid.
“Do you think we have so many options? We have more players for different situations, that’s all good, but two more defensive, two very young (on the bench),” said the German, referring to the presence of defenders Ragnar Klavan and Alberto Moreno and teenagers Ovie Ejaria and Ben Woodburn, who was given a last-minute debut, among his substitutes.
“I am fine, really happy about the skills of the boys but injury is never a positive thing.
“I don’t need injury of another player to show me Divock Origi is a good football player.
“But when Div came in it’s how it is in life, timing is very important, and now he’s ready again and that’s good.
“Maybe it’s a coincidence in this situation but he’s ready again.
“He had a few problems after the summer break, not big, then he nearly played nowhere, not for Belgium, not for us and that’s not good but he was switched on from the first second.
“It was not an easy situation. Nobody could’ve expected in this moment that we had to make a substitution but we did it and Div was immediately in the game, that was really important.
“He deserved it very much because even in these not very easy times for him he is a very positive guy and always ready to learn.
“He’s still a young boy and he got the benefit for this work.”
Origi was sent on just past the half-hour after Coutinho’s exit on a stretcher, later leaving Anfield on crutches with a protective boot on his right foot, after Didier Ndong’s follow-through accidentally caught him.
His goal in the 75th minute, a low curling effort from the left side of the penalty area, broke Sunderland’s dogged resistance and James Milner’s’ fifth penalty of the season in added time completed a fifth home win in six matches to keep the Reds in second place.
Having climbed off the bottom last week Sunderland returned to the foot of the Premier League having had just 22 per cent possession and managed only one shot on target.
“It wasn’t for the purist; but it’s not our job to entertain the Anfield crowd. Our job was to come and try and get a result,” said David Moyes, whose failure to win at his bogey ground extended to 14 matches.
“I think the Sunderland fans could see how hard the players were trying out there and how much effort they were putting in and they stuck with the game.
“We were close, but not close enough.”