Brendan Rodgers has dismissed criticism of his team selection after Tuesday night’s 1-0 Champions League defeat to Real Madrid…
Liverpool FC produced one of their best performances of the season at the imposing Santiago Bernabéu on Tuesday night.
They may not have halted Real Madrid’s phenomenal run of victories, which now stretches to 12, but they certainly gave the Spanish giants plenty to think about.
Brendan Rodgers‘ men covered every blade of grass as they hustled and contained their free-scoring opponents in impressive fashion.
Unlike at Anfield two weeks ago, they were breached only once, via a well-taken 27th minute Karim Benzema strike that would ultimately prove to be the winner.
At the other end, the Reds even managed to work plenty of promising moments and situations of their own.
The fact that Madrid keeper Iker Casillas remained largely untroubled was primarily down to some poor final passes and wayward shooting as opposed to any lack of ambition.
Despite avoiding the heavy defeat that almost everyone predicted, much of the post-match debate has unfairly centred on Rodgers’ decision to rest a host of his key players.
The line-up, selected with one-eye on Saturday’s Premier League clash with domestic rivals Chelsea, featured seven changes from the defeat to Newcastle United and included rarely-seen squad players Kolo Toure, Lucas Leiva and Fabio Borini.
Speaking about his reasoning at the post-match press conference, Rodgers explained: “I go with my gut feeling and it was that the performance we had on Saturday wasn’t as good as what we would have wanted.
“But it’s also what we’d planned out over a number of games – we had seven matches in 21 days, we’re trying to adapt players into a new way of working and playing.
“Because we can’t train as much, we have to see them, look at them and develop them in the games.
“Every game for Liverpool is a big game and I didn’t see this as a big showcase game where I had to play the so-called names and then not have a big game at the weekend.
“I thought the players were outstanding. I look at Kolo Toure who came into the team, I thought he was excellent. Lucas Leiva, who hasn’t featured so much, was outstanding in that controlling midfield role. Emre Can is getting up to fitness and speed, Adam Lallana was excellent and got better as the game went on. Fabio Borini showed his intensity with pressure and movement at the top of the field and young Lazar Markovic worked hard and will get better as time goes on.
“It might have seemed a gamble from the outside, but certainly for me it wasn’t.”
The result was never going to have a decisive impact on Liverpool’s chances of reaching the knockout stages anyway.
Even in defeat, Rodgers’ men know that wins in their final two games, at home to FC Basel and away at Ludogorets Razgrad, should see them progress as Group B runners-up.
Of course, grabbing an unlikely win, or even a point, at the home of the reigning European Champions would have helped their cause but it was not to be.
“We’re disappointed with the result, in particular after an excellent performance,” remarked Rodgers. “We started the game very, very well, showed great confidence and courage to play.
“We defended well when we had to against a team who are winning games by four, five and six goals and are currently the best team in the world.
“I thought we were unfortunate not to get something from the game. The courage the players showed, we had to defend well at times, but we always wanted to ensure we stayed in the game. We’ve seen at this stadium in particular, games finished after 20/25 minutes.
“With our courage to play, our attitude and commitment in the game to keep going forward, I thought we deserved a point from the game.”
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