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Friday 9 December 2016

a winning review for reds

Rodgers puts down vital Cup victory to the Melwood meeting with his players

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists reaching an FA Cup semi-final was not about saving their season but admits a 1-0 victory at Blackburn was vital.

Philippe Coutinho settled the encounter with the only goal of a tight replay at Ewood Park in the 70th minute with a low, angled drive.

It sets up a Wembley meeting with Aston Villa on April 19, but after back-to-back defeats to Manchester United and Arsenal severely damaged their top-four aspirations it was essential they got through this tie.

trophies

"As a team, we wanted it. It wasn't about saving our season. We want to compete at the top end of the league and win trophies," said Rodgers.

"We just needed to focus on our performance because the two performances against Manchester United and Arsenal were not to the standards we had set.

"We were heavily criticised and disappointed in both games we played because of the standards we had set. We knew this was vital for us and the supporters. This was for them to give them the hope we were still progressing, but you have to win matches and trophies to do that."

Defeat at Arsenal at the weekend prompted reports of a crisis meeting at the club's Melwood training ground, but the Reds boss, who had previously dismissed the claims, admitted that get-together on Sunday helped fashion the win over Rovers.

"There was a lot made of that. I am a coach who speaks openly with players. Part of the coaching philosophy for me is about reviewing and reflecting performance," he added.

"Because we lost a couple of games, a lot was made of that meeting but that review is very important for how we want to work - unless you review and analyse how can you be better?

"We made points on how we improve our performance level, we agreed on it and committed to it and you saw the shape of the team: we reintroduced 4-3-3 and got into the final third very well."

Rodgers also praised Jordan Henderson, who had a hand in the winner, after Tuesday night was interrupted by the birth of his second child.

"Jordan Henderson had to go back from the hotel because his wife had their second child during the night and hadn't slept much and has travelled all the way back again, and has put in a performance like he did, a real captain's performance," said Rodgers.

Henderson himself believes the victory at Blackburn will give his team-mates a much-needed lift heading into the English Premier League run-in.

Henderson feels the Ewood Park result will help get things back on track. "It was a really important game for us today," he said. "I think everybody has been disappointed over the last couple of weeks with performances and results.

character

"But I think we showed great character today. We knew when we came here they'd make it difficult for us but from start to finish we controlled the game, I thought we were brilliant.

"Towards the end when we'd gone 1-0 up they were chucking everything at us but we defended fantastically.

"Credit to the lads really and we'll go to Wembley against Villa and I'm sure it will be a tough game because they're a good side.

"But it gives everyone a lift."

Henderson hailed a "little bit of brilliance" from Coutinho, the man signed from Inter Milan two years ago. He added: "Philippe's got a great football brain and the easy bit was just giving him it and he finished it fantastically well.

"That little bit of brilliance from him wins us the game and gives everyone a big lift.

"Hopefully now we can kick on over our last seven games in the Premier League and in the semi-final."

Blackburn boss Gary Bowyer had nothing but praise for his injury-hit side.

"I am hugely proud of the team. Not just the team, the whole football club. The supporters were tremendous," he said.

"But there is a hint of disappointment because we have not got through. We have pushed them, (Simon) Mignolet has pulled off several good stops over the two games. I wish Liverpool all the best. It would be fitting if they could win it for Steven Gerrard (the final is on his 35th birthday and would be his last game before departing to Los Angeles Galaxy). It would be a great way for him to finish his Liverpool career."

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