Date: 20th April 2015 at 7:38am
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A magnanimous Brendan Rodgers concedes his side were disappointing in Sunday’s 2-1 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Aston Villa…

Liverpool’s season looks effectively over after a crushing defeat to bogey side Aston Villa at Wembley.

Playing for a place in this season’s FA Cup final, the Merseysiders failed to find top gear throughout the contest against an inspired Villa who looked unrecognisable to the team which had struggled so markedly in the Premier League.

Liverpool did manage to take the lead midway through the first half through Philippe Coutinho but the goal owed a huge debt of gratitude to individual mistakes from the opposition and Lady Luck.

Christian Benteke, regularly a thorn in the side of the Reds, drew the scores level within six minutes, before the impressive Fabian Delph struck the winner 10 minutes into the second half.

A strangely subdued Liverpool mustered a late onslaught on Shay Given’s goal but an equaliser always looked unlikely and so it was to prove.

“As you can imagine, we’re obviously bitterly disappointed, and more with the performance,” analysed a crestfallen Brendan Rodgers in 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.”

Rodgers continually tweaked his tactics and personnel throughout the game but struggled to find the right balance.

Asked about the tinkering, which included switching from three central defenders to a back four midway through the first half and sending striker Mario Balotelli on during the interval, the Northern Irishman replied: “It was to try to spark some energy and some flow into the game.

“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.”

Despite their struggles, on another afternoon Liverpool would have at least forced extra-time when Balotelli had the ball in the net in the 88th minute.

Unfortunately the strike was adjudged to be off-side – a decision replays proved incorrect – and Rodgers remarked of the incident: “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.”

Liverpool will now be left to lick their wounds before returning to league action against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns on Saturday afternoon.

The fixture is one of only six remaining this season as the fifth-placed Reds attempt to end an inconsistent campaign as high as possible in the standings.


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