English Premiership

Youngsters praised by Rodgers

2015-02-08 11:46
Brendan Rodgers (AFP)

Liverpool - Brendan Rodgers has praised the performance of his young players as they played a leading role in extending Liverpool's long unbeaten record against Everton in the Merseyside derby.

Much of the build-up to the 224th meeting between the two clubs was focused on Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard as he prepared to play his final league game against Everton prior to his move to LA Galaxy at the end of the season.

Gerrard's performance in the 0-0 draw at Goodison Park on Saturday was described as "excellent" by Rodgers and the 34-year-old went as close as anyone to winning the game with a second-half volley which was deflected over his own crossbar by Everton's Steven Naismith.

But it was converted defender Emre Can, who helped Liverpool keep a fourth successive Premier League clean sheet, and 19-year-old winger Jordon Ibe on only his second league start for Liverpool, who typified his team's performance in the eyes of Rodgers.

Ibe was recalled from a loan spell at Championship side Derby County last month and after two substitute performances promoted to the starting line-up, hitting the post with a long-range effort as Liverpool stretched their unbeaten run in the derby fixture to 10 games.

"What was pleasing tonight in such an intense atmosphere was the composure of my young players," Rodgers said.

"Emre Can, at 21, was like a Rolls Royce at the back, he defended fantastically and his quality on the ball was very, very good and young Jordan Ibe and the rest showed great composure.

"I have just been waiting to put Jordan in. We called him back because we felt he could really contribute.

"He had a great spell on loan, which is what you want from your young players to get that experience and he had an outstanding manager in Steve McClaren at Derby.

"He had a real good time at a good club but it was time for him to come back and feature. He would have played in some of the cup games if he had been available and I had no qualms about putting him in.

"It was a brilliant performance by him and he was unfortunate not to have scored with his run and strike and he had one at the back post where if he arrived a fraction earlier he would probably have scored.

"But he showed a wonderful temperament and technique and tactically was very, very good. I was very pleased for him in that intensity of as game."

Liverpool, whose midfielder Lucas Leiva will have a scan on an abductor muscle problem, have now lost just once in their last 14 games and have moved to within four points of a top-four place ahead of Tuesday's crucial game against fifth-placed Tottenham at Anfield.

Everton, who almost claimed a late winner when Seamus Coleman was denied by Simon Mignolet's fine save, remain 12th but after extending their unbeaten league run to four games, manager Roberto Martinez sees reason for optimism ahead of a midweek trip to league leaders Chelsea and a Europa League last-32 tie against Swiss club Young Boys

"I have felt for a while that we are starting to perform and showing signs that we can re-produce the quality they have and the quality we showed last season," he said.

"Obviously we want to win games. Winning at Crystal Palace (last week) gave us a lot of confidence and today's performance, for a defensive and tactical point of view, will also give us a lot of confidence as well.

"But we want to win games like today and look forward to a very significant month. I think this month is the most important month of the season for the European competition and the important games we've got around it."


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