Five things we learned from Liverpool's FA Cup win against Blackburn
Brazilian midfielder Phillipe Coutinho showed yet again why he is Brendan Rodgers' most vital player. Here are five things we learned from Liverpool's FA Cup tie against Blackburn.
Philippe Coutinho saved Liverpool’s skin against Blackburn and kept the club on course for the FA Cup final with his second-half winner, strengthening the Brazilian’s claim to be crowned the team’s player of the season.
The 22-year-old No10 has certainly been the club’s most improved player and his work-rate and tenacity is an example to the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli, who was absent again, this time due to an apparent illness. Coutinho’s goal was special too.
It was not in the class of the stunners he scored against Southampton and Manchester City, but it was arguably more important. His low drive into the far corner, following a neat one-two with Jordan Henderson, ended Blackburn’s dogged resistance and secured a Wembley semi-final against Aston Villa.
Sakho injury might be a blessing for Liverpool
When Mamadou Sakho limped out of this game with a hamstring injury after just 26 minutes, the Frenchman’s departure from the action appeared the latest setback to befall Brendan Rodgers. With Martin Skrtel completing his three-match suspension against Newcastle next Monday, the absence of Sakho will leave Liverpool without two of their senior centre-halves.
But Sakho’s erratic performance against Blackburn suggested he will not be missed during his absence. He was a magnet for calamity, with his poor distribution and reading of the game putting pressure on the Liverpool defence whenever he was within 10 yards of the ball.
Sterling must get used to 'greedy' taunts
Raheem Sterling was jeered whenever he touched the ball and subjected to chants of ‘one greedy b------‘ by the Blackburn supporters as a result of his public stand-off with Liverpool over a new contract. When a 20-year-old England international is taunted by opposing supporters as a result of his wage demands, it suggests that the player’s PR is not what it should be.
Sterling is one of the brightest talents in the English game, a potential cornerstone of the England team for the next decade, but he is turning football fans against him by allowing his dispute with Liverpool to detract from his ability. Liverpool’s 6,000-strong travelling contingent were conspicuously silent in response to the Blackburn chants towards Sterling, but the player will be in serious trouble if the The Kop turns on him next.
Jordan Rhodes failed his Premier League audition
Many Premier League clubs have looked at Blackburn forward Jordan Rhodes and decided against gambling on the 25-year-old. Wherever he has been in the lower leagues, the Scotland international has been a prolific goalscorer, with his record of 152 goals in 285 league games highlighting his predatory instincts.
At £8million, he is Blackburn’s record signing and has scored at a rate of more than a goal every two games for the club, but against Liverpool he failed to show that the big clubs have been wrong to look elsewhere.
Rhodes lacks pace and, outside the box, did not do enough. It took the introduction of substitute Rudy Gestede to really get Liverpool nerves jangling in the closing stages.
Liverpool look tired
Until Philippe Coutinho gave Liverpool the lead on 70 minutes, the Premier League team looked to be staring at a draining period of extra-time at Ewood Park. And with Brendan Rodgers’ players playing their fiftieth game of the season, the prospect of a further thirty minutes might just have pushed some of them over the edge.
A year ago, Liverpool’s absence from European competition saw them blow opponents away with their extra energy until Steven Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea saw the title slip away. But with so many more games crammed into this season, it is beginning to show in Liverpool’s legs and they will have another nine to play if the reach the Cup Final.