Rodgers: I took Stevie off for Stamford Bridge acclaim
Brendan Rodgers thought Liverpool were “outstanding” in the second half as their Champions League hopes just about died out against Chelsea.
LIVERPOOL could only manage a draw at Stamford Bridge against Champions Chelsea meaning they are now as good as out of the Champions League places for this season. The Liverpool goal was scored by Steven Gerrard, who Brendan Rodgers later revealed he had substituted, “just to give him the acclaim of probably his last time playing here at Stamford Bridge.”
The draw moves Liverpool a point closer to Manchester United but with two games apiece left the most they can hope for is to get into the top four on goal difference. For that to happen Liverpool would need to win both their games, with the Old Trafford side losing both theirs. Then there’s the 14-goal deficit to overhaul, by a team whose two top scorers have only managed 15 goals between them in the previous 36 games.
After the game manager Rodgers spoke to the cameras about his side’s performance. Despite the dropped points and the apparent end of Liverpool’s hopes of reaching their minimum target for the season, Rodgers seemed very upbeat.
“Obviously I think we got off to an awful start,” he said, “Disappointing goal from our perspective, and then they had a wee bit of momentum in that first 15 or 20 minutes or so.
“And then we got ourselves back into the game, the header by Stevie well worked, and I thought the second half we were outstanding, you know.”
If Liverpool had a goal for every time Rodgers has used the word “outstanding” to describe a Liverpool performance, result or player they wouldn’t have missed Suarez or Sturridge at all this season. But the absence of a recognised, dependable striker has arguably been Liverpool’s biggest downfall in a season best forgotten.
Rodgers summed up that season-long problem when summing up today’s game: “We just lacked that bit of quality in the final third to make the finish.” Teams are no longer worried about Liverpool despite the effort. “But second half it was a big effort by the players,” he said, glossing over the fact that it was yet another game where effort counted for little due to the failures in last summer’s transfer window. Gerrard is now top scorer, he’s a midfielder, has missed a chunk of the season and has been allowed to leave for LA Galaxy in a few more games’ time.
On the tackle by Cesc Fabregas on Raheem Sterling very early in the game, Rodgers avoided saying he thought it should have seen the Chelsea man sent off. “It was a poor tackle,” he said. “Very, very early in the game and something, obviously, we’re disappointed the referee didn’t see, but maybe because it was so early in the game.
“You can see quite clearly that Fabregas jumps in and catches Raheem with a bad tackle.”
Liverpool played better for much of the second half than they did in the first, albeit without really threatening the Chelsea goal too often, so did Rodgers change anything at half time?
“Just mentality,” he said. “It’s happened too much this season you know, we’ve started games poorly and have sometimes been punished for it.”
“Last year we were consistent first 20, 25 minutes, you know, the intensity, but it’s just responsibility.
“It’s wanting to get on the ball, it’s wanting to play and I felt first half, in particular the first part of the first half, we weren’t so good, but it was just about reinforcing that they’re good players and that they’ve got quality and I thought second half they started to move that bit more freer and created chances.”
Why did he take the goal scorer off before the end? “Just purely, as I said, Stevie, he’s worked brilliantly and it was more just to give him the acclaim of probably his last time playing here at Stamford Bridge and it was a great reaction by the Chelsea supporters to him, so, he was outstanding, got his goal, and a real general he’s been for the team today.
“I think, as I said, the Chelsea supporters, obviously he’s been a thorn in their side over many, many, years purely because he’s got quality, he’s been a top player, but I think they recognised today the end of an era of a guy who’s a real special, special, player and it was a nice send-off they gave him.”
Before the game Rodgers confirmed his £16m signing Balotelli wasn’t ill or injured and that he had just been left out. He was asked if the player still had a future at the club but refused to be drawn: “It’s about the players that played today and I thought they were outstanding and in particular second half.”
So is he now going to accept that the season is over, has top four gone? “No, no, keep fighting.”
“Obviously we wanted to win, it’s a point, six points in it, obviously it’s a lot to do with the games and the goals but until it’s impossible we’ll keep working.”
Interview: Sky Sports
Chelsea: 13 Courtois, 2 Ivanovic, 5 Zouma (24 Cahill, 35), 26 Terry, 3 Filipe Luis, 12 Mikel, 36 Loftus-Cheek (21 Matic, 60), 22 Willian, 4 Fàbregas, 10 Hazard, 18 Remy (23 Cuadrado, 84)
Subs unused: 6 Aké, 11 Drogba, 28 Azpilicueta, 33 Beeney
Liverpool: 22 Mignolet, 23 Can, 37 Skrtel, 6 Lovren, 2 Johnson, 14 Henderson, 8 Gerrard (21 Lucas, 79), 10 Coutinho, 31 Sterling, 20 Lallana (33 Ibe, 71), 9 Lambert (48 Sinclair, 68)
Subs unused: 4 K Touré, 18 Moreno, 24 Allen, 52 Ward
Referee: Andre Marriner
(On Liverpool being seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester United and needing to beat the Champions, can they?) – “Yes, absolutely, yes.
“We have the belief.
“We obviously know it’s going to be a difficult game, but that was always our intention anyway no matter how far away we were from Manchester United or how close we were this was a game where our intention was to win.”
(On why Mario Balotelli is not in the squad) – “No, no, just… not selected in the squad.
“We’ve obviously got some of our young players, young strikers, Jerome Sinclair has been doing fantastic in our youth and reserve teams and scored a lot of goals and (this is) an opportunity for him to come in, he works tirelessly every day and, no, Mario is just not in the squad.”
(On the ‘guard of honour’) – “Ten years ago, 2005, when I worked here at Chelsea and went to Old Trafford and seen Manchester United perform the guard of honour it’s something that’s the protocol in this country we do.
“It’s also something we as a football club that has class and integrity we are obviously fiercely competitive but we have to respect Chelsea were the best team and it falls to us to offer that guard of honour.
We’ll do it. We’ll show the respect that this great club has, and then when kick-off comes we’ll be fiercely competitive again to get the result.”
(On whether Liverpool can be motivated by the ‘guard of honour’ they have to do for Chelsea) – “Yes most definitely they’re a big club they’ve done really well this season I don’t think any player would like to do the guard of honour after the other one so we can definitely use it as a stepping stone for revenge next season.”