Sunday, 19 April 2015

Rodgers: The better team won at Wembley


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Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers admitted that the better team won after Aston Villa ruined Liverpool's hopes of lifting the FA Cup with a 2-1 victory at Wembley.
The Reds gained an advantage with a third of the semi-final played in London as Philippe Coutinho bounded into the area and looped a shot over Shay Given.
But from there it all went wrong. Within six minutes, the score was level when Fabian Delph crossed into the middle for Christian Benteke to beat compatriot Simon Mignolet.
Villa captain Delph grabbed the winner nine minutes into the second half to ruin hopes of progressing to the final against Arsenal back at Wembley next month.
"As you can imagine, we're obviously bitterly disappointed, and more with the performance," Rodgers said at his post-match press conference.
"You can always lose a game, but you'd hope you can play well and give yourself an opportunity. I thought we were second best today, to be honest. They were better than us. We had some chances but Aston Villa were better than us today.
"There's an obligation here to fight right until the very end. We have come close now in two competitions but failed to make the steps. Hopefully in the future we can learn from that.
"I think sometimes you can want to win too much and the focus comes away from what allows you to win.
"I thought our energy was low today. Aston Villa had a good start and I felt we were too passive in the game. I had to change the system, it got us some joy, we started to control the game a little bit and then we got in front - but we didn't keep the lead long enough.
"We were too passive on the side of the field, Fabian Delph skips through way too easily and they got back into the game. Second half, we hoped to play better but we just didn't create enough today.
"It was a trademark of the team last year - in the first 20 minutes of games, the intensity of our game was very high.
"Of late, that hasn't quite been the case. We just were nowhere near our level. Congratulations to Aston Villa because they played well and are through to the final. The better team won."
Elimination in the last four of the FA Cup follows a semi-final exit in the Capital One Cup, meaning the start-of-season ambition to secure silverware will not be achieved.
It leaves Liverpool's focus solely on league football for the remainder of the campaign and attempts to close the gap to the top four and Champions League qualification.
"It has been a mixture really," the boss continued. "The start of the season was not so good and there were various reasons behind that.
"In the middle of the season we picked up and were playing very, very well and winning games, with great rhythm and flow to our game. In the last block of games, the performance level hasn't been what we would like.
"We have reached two semi-finals; we need to have the courage and bravery now to play better in those games and the big games. We didn't play well enough today.
"Technically, we weren't quite on it, we looked as if maybe the occasion and energy got to us a bit. That's what can happen sometimes if you have got young players.
"We've come up short in a few games. That's something we certainly need to improve. But I think all these experiences for them [the players] will make them better. We're a team that's growing and changed quite a bit in the summer. But all these experiences will hopefully help in the future.
"In the remaining games, we'll have to fight in every single game. Of course, there'll be disappointment in the next couple of days, but we now have to get ready for our next league game."
Rodgers opted to make a formation switch during the first half, shifting from three at the back to four, while the manager moved quickly at the interval to introduce Mario Balotelli in place of Lazar Markovic.
Journalists quizzed the Northern Irishman during his post-match briefing as to why he felt the need to make several alterations and what the thinking was behind such changes.
"It was to try to spark some energy and some flow into the game," said Rodgers. "You obviously give credit to Aston Villa, but for me, I'll always look at my own team and I felt that the movement and the sharpness of our game was missing.
"We needed to change it after that first 20-25 minutes and it brought us a little bit more control of the game and we get in front. But we were too passive throughout the game, both in the attacking sense and in our defensive side.
"At half-time, I felt we needed the change again to give us more thrust and the energy to go forward. But even then, I felt the numbers going forward were not as much as what we're normally used to. Hence the reason why we didn't create so much.
"In a one-off game, in a semi-final game, you don't have a second chance. I know the players well enough to gauge whether we're getting the flow of our game and I felt it wasn't.
"It's something that I've done regularly within games [make changes]. I just felt that in order for us to get the domination of the ball and get better possession - and that was the idea for the changes."
As the game entered its final stages, Liverpool toiled in their attempts to fashion an equaliser.
Balotelli did have the ball in the back of the net on 88 minutes, but the sight of a raised flag from the referee's assistant halted any premature celebrations. However, television replays suggested the Italian striker was onside.
Rodgers said: "We didn't create too many chances, but that was clear. He's made a bad decision because he's looking right across the line.
"It was the right-back that was keeping him at least within a yard on, so he should see that. Mario goes through on goal and you'd expect him to finish. It was a bad decision that went against us."
http://www.liverpoolfc.com/

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