Thursday 19 October 2017

Defensive strength delights Dalglish

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is hopeful a rediscovery of defensive resilience can provide a platform for his team to make up lost ground in the Barclays Premier League.

Last night's 1-0 victory over Fulham at Anfield not only secured back-to-back wins for the first time since early November, it was just the second occasion this season the Reds have kept successive clean sheets in the league.

The first was way back in September after a 1-0 win over West Brom and a goalless draw at Birmingham.

However, while those results - particularly the latter - were indicative of the negativity of Roy Hodgson's short-lived reign at Anfield, there is renewed optimism under Dalglish.

Just a couple of months ago Liverpool would probably have cracked under the pressure exerted by Fulham late on but confidence, and with it a new commitment to prove they are better than results have suggested this season, is rising.

They were indebted to goalkeeper Jose Reina for a few good saves and Raul Meireles' goalline clearance from Brede Hangeland's header after John Pantsil's own goal had put them ahead.

But Dalglish pointed to that as an example of how the players are showing more determination to hang on to hard-won advantages.

"They gave us some problems for our defence but it is great there is nothing against us," said the Scot, whose side's current seventh place is their highest position of the campaign.

"It was important thing to get two clean sheets back-to-back, it won't do anyone any harm.

"I don't think they were ever going to crumble. Second half we really dug in after the goal and the attitude and commitment of the players was tremendous as they didn't want to lose a goal.

"Their resolve was fantastic and that is why we got the three points.

"When you have no goals against you always have a chance and if we start passing and moving it there is a chance of scoring at the other end.

"It takes both ends of the pitch to be functioning to get three points in this league."

His sentiments were echoed by Reina, who added; "It's nice to keep two clean sheets in a row and it's very important.

"A good team is built from the back and having a strong backline and if you have this then you will have more chances to win more games."

Liverpool are within six points of fifth-placed Tottenham, although they have played one match more.

And although Dalglish will not admit it, he and his players will be targeting Spurs over the coming month, a period which presents them with a number of opportunities to make up ground.

Next Wednesday Stoke visit Anfield and, although there is then a trip to Chelsea to factor in, subsequent games at home to strugglers Wigan and away to West Ham are the ideal opportunity for the squad to make a concerted challenge for the European berths.

"We are certainly better than where we were but there are plenty of games to play and plenty of points at stake," said Dalglish.

"We are not trying to minimise the efforts of the players but they would say the same thing as me and that is it would be great if we could push on and be even higher up but to do that we have to win games and points.

"It is never a bad thing to look at the table and see yourself seventh but if we feel good at being seventh it will be even better to be sixth."

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