Friday 14 December 2018

I did not make mistake by leaving Sterling out says Rodgers after Villa stun Liverpool

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists he did not make a mistake resting Raheem Sterling in the defeat to Aston Villa but the teenager will be straight back in the starting line-up for their Champions League opener.

Sterling has emerged as a key player for the Reds over the last 10 months but having played 180 minutes in England's two matches last week he was benched for the 1-0 loss to Aston Villa. He was introduced after an hour on Saturday, with Liverpool struggling to break down their opponents but even he could not unlock a resilient Villa rearguard.

The 19-year-old will be back in the team for tomorrow's visit of Bulgarian outsiders Ludogorets as Rodgers looks to get the club's return to Europe's elite off to a flying start.

But the Northern Irishman stressed that did not mean he got it wrong against Villa.

"We have an exciting couple of months and this was a game I felt we could do that," he said.

"If he didn't have international football then it would have been the case.


"He is a big player for us but we have built a squad here where I have to trust all the players but as a team and a squad we didn't deliver. He will certainly play on Tuesday night."

Liverpool's starting XI contained five summer signings - with midfielder Adam Lallana making his debut after an injury in pre-season - but Rodgers said that was not the reason for defeat.

"We had new players against Tottenham (whom they beat 3-0 before the international break) and we were outstanding," he said.

"The players we have brought in are very good players but we just failed to open them (Villa) up.

"We just lacked that bit of quality. We have seen many games here where we ended up with 15-20 shots on target but that didn't happen."

For some time Liverpool's Achilles heel has been set-pieces and they conceded from another when from an avoidable corner Philippe Senderos's header created enough confusion for Gabriel Agbonlahor to score.

Senderos had a couple of opportunities to double their lead in the first half but also escaped punishment for what looked like a kick at Mario Balotelli.

After the break Liverpool stepped up the pressure but the closest they came to an equaliser was when Philippe Coutinho curled a shot against the post.

Defender Dejan Lovren admits conceding like they did is a painful experience.

"It hurts for everyone, especially for the defence, especially when you see the game and they didn't have many chances," he told LFC TV.

"They are really good at corners and that was their only chance but we have lost the three points."


Rodgers hopes the return of the Champions League will give his side the chance to bounce back.

"This game has gone and we now have to focus on that," he said.

"There is nothing better than to get going again on Tuesday night in a competition we love. Hopefully we can start that competition with three points."

Villa boss Paul Lambert, who has two wins and a draw from his last three visits to Anfield, believes the faith he placed in the club's young talent is now starting to pay off.

"The young lads have grown into men and it was a massive three points," he said after his side went second in the Premier League with their third victory.

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