Friday 15 December 2017

Brendan Rodgers praises 'clever' Raheem Sterling

Under-fire winger helps inspire Liverpool to dramatic win at QPR

Liverpool's Raheem Sterling (REAR) celebrates with Steven Gerrard after his cross was deflected into the goal by Queens Park Rangers Steven Caulker
Liverpool's Raheem Sterling (REAR) celebrates with Steven Gerrard after his cross was deflected into the goal by Queens Park Rangers Steven Caulker

Brendan Rodgers hailed Raheem Sterling's "courage and cleverness" in providing the perfect riposte to "unfortunate" criticism of his England omission as Liverpool tiptoed to a 3-2 victory at QPR.

Sterling shook off controversy over claims he complained of tiredness in the build-up to England's Euro 2016 qualifier in Estonia to mastermind Liverpool's patchy Loftus Road win.

Liverpool boss Rodgers said he has "no issue" with Roy Hodgson, pledging full support for England in spite of club frustrations over the Sterling revelations.

Sterling forced Steven Caulker to turn the ball into his own net in the fourth minute of added time as the Reds gazumped luckless QPR to root Harry Redknapp's men to the foot of the Premier League.

Richard Dunne's own goal gifted Liverpool the lead against the run of play, Eduardo Vargas twice equalised in the game's frenetic dying stages either side of Philippe Coutinho's strike, but Caulker's error denied Rangers a deserved point.

"I thought his cleverness and brightness led to the first goal," said Rodgers of Sterling. "The best players come alive when the game goes dead, whether it's a throw-in or in the game.

"Some players look for a rest or try to get organised, but the bright players come alive.

"He spotted it, played it early: it was a great run from Glen Johnson to invite the quick ball, and obviously a great cross that the defender turned in.

"And the breakaways for the other two, they are just all about his speed, his technique, his courage to carry the ball, run with the ball. It was great courage and cleverness from him today."

Liverpool harboured frustrations Hodgson revealed Sterling had complained of tiredness ahead of the Estonia clash, that England eventually won 1-0. Hodgson attended Sunday's Loftus Road thriller, but left 10 minutes before the end - and the entire calamitous climax.

Former Swansea boss Rodgers said he did not know whether England using Sterling sparingly in the last fortnight boosted his performance at QPR.

Rodgers said there was no need for him or Sterling to meet up with Hodgson on Sunday.

"I haven't thought on that a lot to be honest, there has been a whole series of things said and written about an unfortunate incident," said Rodgers.

"But we have to move on from that.

"I was actually quite busy believe it or not today, so I haven't had the chance (to speak to Hodgson).

"The kid's played the game and now he's having a shower - so I don't think he'll see him - not unless Roy's having a shower! We always talk, there's no fallout, there's no nothing.

"I'm not a barrier for England, if anything I'm a big supporter of the home nations and every country. I like to think I develop players that will hopefully develop national teams.

"So there's no issue, Roy and I speak and communicate well, we'll always find time to speak.

"He's a good man: I will always be here to support and help them."

Rangers boss Redknapp was left to lament his impressive side's shocking luck - and launch a passionate defence of his Loftus Road tenure. The former Tottenham manager said he has no interest in speculation linking the likes of Tim Sherwood to replacing him at the west London club's helm.

"I couldn't give a monkey's about speculation, if you think I'm bothered, really, about silly people keeping writing rubbish," said Redknapp.

"The only time I hear is if some idiot comes up to me and says 'ooh, have you seen the paper today Harry?' And I say 'I don't know, I don't read it'."

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