Brendan Rodgers: We showed character, resilience and determination
Published 20/04/2014 | 16:56
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers revealed they had used the words of Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, as inspiration to go and beat beat relegation-battlers Norwich 3-2 at Carrow Road and move five points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
Raheem Sterling scored twice and Luis Suarez broke the 30-goal barrier as the Reds moved a step closer to their first championship in over 20 years.
Liverpool showed their intent to make the most of Chelsea's shock home defeat by Sunderland on Saturday, and romped 2-0 ahead inside 10 minutes as the relegation-threatened Canaries were ripped apart with a superb 25-yard effort from Sterling, before Suarez tucked home from close range.
However, Norwich - just two points above the drop-zone - rallied after Gary Hooper reduced the deficit following a poor punch by Simon Mignolet only for Sterling to slot home a deflected third on the break.
Robert Snodgrass set up a tense finale with his far post header with 13 minutes left, but the Reds secured what looks to be a priceless victory ahead of next weekend's showdown with Chelsea at Anfield.
Rodgers delivered an emotional address at the service which commemorated 25 years since the Hillsborough disaster, when 96 Liverpool supporters lost their lives at the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.
The Reds manager again looked for inspiration out of what was such a tragedy for the club and city.
"We were at the memorial service this week, there was hope for the families there as well," said Rodgers.
"I used some words of Margaret Aspinall, we put them up on the wall (in the dressing room), she talked about stress and how it can prove difficult for you, but it can also offer you great determination to fight, and that is what we gave the players today.
"This is all one club at this moment in time and we are all fighting to achieve the ultimate goal."
Rodgers added: "Liverpool is an incredible club.
"To see that (from the fans) is like bringing you back in time, the welcome we got in our last game
"The supporters have been given hope really. They are proud of us, to watch the team attack and play with the verve they are, they put banners hanging over the training ground, there is a lot of nostalgia there for the supporters because they are proud of their team. This is a real iconic football club and we are trying to set the team up to attack."
Rodgers, who maintains his squad had not looked to take any extra incentive from Chelsea's defeat, praised the way his side took an early stranglehold at Carrow Road.
"We showed great quality and were nerveless in our possession and control, but credit to Norwich because they changed their shape for the second half and got the goal which gave the crowd a lift," the Northern Irishman said.
"It was always going to be tough after that, but we showed everything again, the quality of our movement and play was exceptional.
"We had to show character, resilience and determination, which we did in bundles.
"It was a big victory and congratulations to the players because we can finish no lower than third, which guarantees Champions League football, and at the start of the season everyone thought it would be a struggle for us to get to fourth, so it shows the magnitude of the effort the players have put in."
Rodgers added: "We have cemented the first objective, which was cementing Champions League qualification. Now we will look forward to next weekend, which will be a great atmosphere at Anfield."
The Liverpool manager praised the impact of England World Cup hopeful Sterling, who supported the attack well in the absence of injured forward Daniel Sturridge.
"He is arguably the best young player in European football at the moment, if he does not win the PFA Young Player of the Year this season, it is ridiculous," Rodgers said.
"I have been really pleased with his maturity, because we have tried to play him in different positions, which really tells you how intellgient he is as a footballer.
"He is a really humble kid, and it has been great to see."
Rodgers, though, is determined to keep everyone grounded.
He said: "You never get too carried away when you win, and you never get too dissapointed when you lose.
"You cant win every game, but dealing with the expectancy is all part of being at a huge club like Liverpool.
"All I know is my players give me everything and I cannot ask for any more. For me, that is what is important."