Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was impressed with his team after they went behind twice, to climb back and win the match 3-2.
Steven Gerrard’s injury-time penalty got Liverpool a big victory as the top of the table becomes tighter than ever. Liverpool came back from behind to beat Fulham 3-2 at Craven Cottage on Wednesday night.
The visitors had twice fallen behind, first to an own goal from Kolo Toure and then a Kieran Richardson’s close-range strike due to some weak defending. However, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho restored parity both the times and eventually a cynical challenge on Sturridge in injury time got Liverpool the lead as Gerrard kept his cool from 12 yards and scored the winner for his club.
Rodgers understood the importance of the win and spoke in his post match conference:
“It was a really important win for us tonight after the game at the weekend, where we were outstanding. We had to show some different qualities tonight; one of them being character. It was a wonderful demonstration of the real togetherness of the group. It was very, very pleasing.
“Fulham didn’t have too many chances. We gave them an own goal and then they scored from a poor piece of defending from us. Other than that, they had one other opportunity in the first half.
“Before they went 2-1 up, we hit the post. We looked like the team that was probing and passing. I’ve got great respect for Rene Meulensteen. He’s a good guy, who has come into a very difficult job. The team did him very proud today, like they did at Old Trafford.
“But I can only give huge credit to the players tonight, because we had to dig deep to get that performance and result. It shows there’s a lot of character and there’s still a way to go for this team.
Rodgers spoke about development of young players and how improving certain aspects of the game:
“My concentration, since I’ve been here, has always been on the next game and then getting out on the training field and improving aspects of the team. Tonight you saw the real development of the team in terms of character yet again. You saw young players in pressure situations stay calm and stay focused.
“We introduced another young player in Joao Teixeira, who has done great in our reserve team. Not only did he show that he could come in and play with some of our top players, he’s also shown he can fight for the team. He made a great block at the end and it was equally important for us.
“Daniel Agger had been out for a while. I said to him that, if the penalty went in, he was going straight on, so to get ready. I had an idea that with the big guy coming up front, it would become a war for the last five minutes.
“As soon as it went in, Daniel was coming on and he made three great headers in the end to prevent us from conceding.”
Rodgers said that he felt that Liverpool gave away poor goals and were below par in the first half:
“The goal gives us that balance in the game, and for the five or six minutes after we got it, we went onto another level in terms of the speed in our game. That set us up for the second half, but we gave away a poor goal again.
“We’d lacked intensity in the first half, we lacked aggression and we didn’t control the longer ball – and that was my point at half-time.
“You’re always pushing and you’re always looking to get something. For me, it’s never over until the whistle goes. They were disappointing goals to concede.
“We’ve defended poorly at times this season. It’s not been a structural thing; it’s been down to individual errors that have cost us. But thankfully we’re a very aggressive team offensively. So we’ve got goals in the team. That’s something that I’ve been trying to build since I’ve been here.
“I arrived into the club and the team didn’t score enough. Now we know we can go to any ground or play at home and get goals. And tonight our goals got us the three points, rather than our defending.”
Rodgers hailed club captain Steven Gerrard, who set up Daniel Sturridge’s first goal with an exquisite outside of the boot pass, and then scored a stoppage time penalty to win the match for the Reds
“Steven, for me, is peerless in many aspects. He was brilliant against Arsenal. His pass for the first goal, that penetration he has, which he’s shown all his life, and then he’s composed at the end. His professionalism right through into this part of his career is still there.
“He has an idea of the way which the ‘keeper will dive and then he’ll chose a corner. So there’s no greater person than Steven Gerrard. A penalty late in the game, last couple of minutes to get the three points and he’s tucked it away really well. There’s no greater person than Steven Gerrard to take a penalty right at the end to get the three points and he tucked it away really well.”
Rodgers was left impressed by his team’s character, to go behind twice and win the match:
“The response of the players is really what my focus is tonight. I’m certainly sure in the first four or five months after I came in here, we’d have lost that game.
“But we’ve now built a way of working and playing – and not only that, we’ve built a spirit and a camaraderie that sees us fight until the very end. That’s what got us the result.
Rodgers, when asked about the title race, laughed off at Mourinho’s claims of Chelsea being a “little horse” in the title race:
“I don’t do all that horse stuff, José is very good at all that sort of thing. May be we’re the Chihuahuas that run in between the horses’ legs. But we’re just about improving with each match.”.
— TheHardTackle (@TheHardTackle) February 8, 2014
But the Liverpool boss spoke seriously about Liverpool’s push of the title and reflected:
“We’re just going to keep pushing and I think we’ve shown enough times that we’re a very good side. We’re chasing, but we need some of them (the teams above) to drop points before anything else can happen.
“We know we have Chelsea and Manchester City to play at home which we’ll look forward to because we’ve been outstanding at home but we’ve just got to take it game by game”.