Pride over pain

Manager Rodgers proud despite Liverpool collapse to hand title advantage to leaders Manchester City

London: Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said his side would reflect on their season with pride despite seeing their title bid seriously compromised in a remarkable 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace. Liverpool led 3-0 with 11 minutes remaining in Monday’s Premier League game at Selhurst Park, only for Palace to score three times in the closing stages to leave the visitors’ title challenge on the rocks.

Manchester City now require only four points from their last two games to effectively claim the championship and Rodgers conceded afterwards: “I think Manchester City will go on and win it.” Liverpool’s players were a picture of distress at the final whistle, with Luis Suarez covering his face with his shirt to hide his sobs and captain Steven Gerrard ushering away approaching television cameras.

Rodgers said that his side’s defending had been “criminal” and described the game’s final moments as “crazy”.But while he admitted that the disappointment of letting victory slip in such calamitous fashion was difficult to stomach, he said that Liverpool should not lose sight of the progress that they have made.

Asked if he was proud of his team, who had finished a distant seventh last season, Rodgers said: “Incredibly.”It’s 99 goals we’re on, this season. The season before I came in (in June 2012), the team had finished on 47. For us to keep improving like we have been gives me immense pride.

“When we’ve got time to reflect on this at the end of the season, we will see it has been an outstanding season for Liverpool.”It does not take away the pain of now, but we will look where we need to improve and continue to get better.

“We have made great strides, but I am certainly here to fight and win titles and I will be relentless in that.”Rodgers added: “We are trying to build something sustainable. This season has shown we will be capable of doing that.”

Liverpool had approached the game knowing that goal difference was likely to be a factor in the title race, as they were level on points with City, who had a goal difference advantage of nine goals.
They took an 18th-minute lead through a header from Joe Allen, but Rodgers was critical of the zeal with which they went in search of further goals, saying: “We thought we could play ‘Roy of the Rovers’ football and make the goal difference up.”

Goals from Daniel Sturridge and Suarez early in the second period looked to have wrapped the game up, only for a deflected Damien Delaney effort to give Palace a foothold before substitute Dwight Gayle claimed a late brace.

Rodgers voiced tentative optimism that Aston Villa might do his side a favour when they visit City on Wednesday, but he admitted that Liverpool’s defensive lapses were likely to have cost them dear.
“Under those little moments of pressure, we have to be better,” he said.

“You never know. Aston Villa are an outstanding counter-attacking team. Paul Lambert will get them organised and I’m sure it’ll be difficult for them (City) to get the win. But I see Man City as the clear favourites.”

Palace’s extraordinary fightback allowed them to bow out in front of their home supporters in memorable fashion after avoiding relegation from the top flight for the first time in the Premier League era.

Manager Tony Pulis revealed that he is now due to hold talks over his future with chairman Steve Parish. “We’re having a chat on Wednesday or Thursday, when me and Steve will get out of London and have a night together to sit down and talk,” he said. AFP

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