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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Sterling: Coutinho has the ‘magic’ to turn game

Reds teammate hails ‘great finish’ as late Cup winner sees off Bolton

Brendan Rodgers believes Philippe Coutinho, pictured, can become a playmaker on the level of Luka Modric or Toni Kroos
Brendan Rodgers believes Philippe Coutinho, pictured, can become a playmaker on the level of Luka Modric or Toni Kroos
Coutinho and Sterling

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes Philippe Coutinho will follow in the footsteps of Luis Suarez and grow into a world-class talent at the club.

The Brazil international, who on Monday signed a new five-year contract, scored the Reds’ added-time winner in the 2-1 FA Cup fourth round replay win at Bolton.

He has been at the heart of their rejuvenation over the last two months and Rodgers, who earlier this week said the 22-year-old could become like Real Madrid’s Luka Modric or Toni Kroos, has high hopes for his future.

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“You would pay money to watch the kid,” he said. “He is a great role model for lots of technical players in this country. He will become world class in the next couple of years.

“Luis Suarez grew and grew in this team and I can see Coutinho falling in the same way, although he might not be as prolific.

Read More: Liverpool back from the brink

“Signing a new deal shows he is really committed to Liverpool and his development.”

Rodgers believes his side’s “winning habit” got them through a tricky tie which looked beyond them until their dramatic late turnaround, as they scored twice in the final minutes.

“We have got a great habit at the minute which is winning games,” said Rodgers.

“You can’t question the character. They have shown a real strong mentality in my time here.”

Bolton took the lead just before the hour mark through a contentious penalty but Raheem Sterling levelled in the 86th minute before Coutinho’s winner.

Bolton played the final 25 minutes with 10 men after Neil Danns was sent off for a second bookable offence and Wanderers boss Neil Lennon was unhappy with referee Roger East.

“I thought he was rubbish. The first booking Dannsy gets isn’t a booking - he doesn’t make contact,” said the Northern Irishman.

“I understand the sending-off but I thought he spoiled a very good game.

“I told him (Dann) at half-time he had to be careful. I don’t think the referee had a choice with the second yellow.

“There were other things in the game I wasn’t happy with.”

Lennon felt the dismissal meant his side just ran out of energy at the end and that was when Liverpool took advantage.

“The pressure came with being a man down against a great team,” he added.

“With four minutes to go we had a lack of concentration. The second goal I think gets a deflection but it is a great hit.”

Next up is a trip to Crystal Palace on February 14 and Rodgers added: “This is a competition we want to do well in.”

Sterling said: “It was a great team effort to stay in the game and get the win at the end.

“I was thinking at 1-0 and having hit the woodwork so many times it’s not our day - but we stuck in there really well.”

On his team-mate’s injury-time winner, the England international added: “Philippe has that magic to turn the game on its head. It was great individual skill and a great finish.

“The important thing was to win. We go to Palace now and can hopefully nick a win there.”

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