Sunday 26 August 2012

Rodgers hails 'courageous' Skrtel

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers lauds defender despite error against Man City

  • Martin Skrtel rises highest to power Liverpool's opening goal past Man City's Joe Hart

  • Arsenal goalkeeper Vito Mannone thwarts Jonathan Walters at the Britannia Stadium

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers praised the courage of defender Martin Skrtel despite an error that enabled Manchester City to equalise in his side's 2-2 draw at Anfield.

Skrtel had a mixed afternoon after putting his side ahead in the first half with a bullet header that inspired a strong performance from the hosts.

However, after Luis Suarez had restored Liverpool's lead with a curling free-kick following Yaya Toure's equaliser, Skrtel put Carlos Tevez in on goal with a blind back-pass that the Argentinian finished expertly to seal a point for the visitors.

But Rodgers would not point the finger at the Slovakian international when interviewed after the game. Indeed he praised the defender's bravery.

"Sometimes the best team doesn't win and I think we were the better team"
Brendan Rodgers

"There's no blame to Martin Skrtel, I'd rather have players wanting to get on to the ball," Rodgers told Sky Sports. "The courage he has to get on the football and try to play is what is the most important thing."

Rodgers cut an upbeat figure after a stirring performance from his side which contrasted markedly from the 3-0 loss at West Bromwich Albion in his first Barclays Premier League game in charge of the Reds.

The former Swansea tactician was rewarded by a fine display from 17-year-old Raheem Sterling on his full debut for the club and he also hailed midfielder Joe Allen's performance on his first home outing at Anfield as "phenomenal".

"It was a brilliant performance, I thought," he added. "There were a lot of questions asked of the team coming into such a big game but I thought the players were incredible and sometimes the best team doesn't win, and I think we were the better team.

"What I've seen today and last week was a one-off and today I thought they were terrific.

"The plan was going perfect but then I thought tactically the ability to press at the right time and to drop off and to block was very good. I'm very, very proud of the team."

Mancini upbeat

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini said his side did well to earn a share of the spoils in a match he had predicted would prove awkward.

"We drew here last year and we won the championship, so I hope we do that again"
Roberto Mancini

"I said before the game that this game would be very difficult, but we gave a very good performance," he said. "We started well and had four or five chances to score but after we conceded the first goal, something changed."

City conceded two goals from set pieces and Mancini hinted that his side might need to work on their defending from such situations.

"We lost two goals from free-kicks, so I think we need to improve," Mancini complained. "The wall should stop that [second] goal – they slept."

Nonetheless, after twice going behind, the Italian took heart from his side's refusal to capitulate. "I'm disappointed because you're always disappointed when you don't win," he said.

"But we went down twice and scored two goals and because of this I think we showed good character. We drew here last year and we won the championship, so I hope we do that again."

Wenger sanguine

After his side suffered a second successive goalless draw against Stoke, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger conceded that his new signings need to forge a better understanding, but he remains positive about his side's title prospects.

Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Gervinho were unable to make a breakthrough at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday despite a dominant display in midfield led by Santi Cazorla.

"Overall I believe we can be a good surprise in this championship"
Arsene Wenger

With few chances at a premium against a resolute Stoke side, Arsenal could only muster a point to add to the one they earned against Sunderland on the opening weekend of the season.

"Offensively we still have some work to do because we missed a bit of accuracy in the final third in our movement and in our passing," said Wenger. "We are used to finding each other in the final third and there's something missing but I still think we should have won the game 1-0.

"[It is] an understanding because you have Cazorla and Podolski who one month ago, they didn't know each other, so that will come. We have some work to do on the training ground but I believe we have the potential but you can see as well that something is missing.

"They're not spontaneous enough in some situations. I'm very positive about my team. People will say: 'You did not score in two games' and I cannot deny that.

"We played against two teams who as a unit defend very well, Sunderland and Stoke, and overall I believe we can be a good surprise in this championship."

Pulis delighted

Stoke manager Tony Pulis was beaming at the final whistle after having secured a second point of the campaign, following last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Reading.

"We must never become blasé about taking a point off one of the top teams in Europe"
Tony Pulis

"I'm pleased with the point, really pleased with the point," said the Welshman."I thought we were disappointing going forward. I thought we could do better than that.

"We looked unbalanced without Matty [Etherington] on the left hand side but the attitude of the players and the commitment of the players was absolutely first class.

"As a football club, we must never ever become blasé about taking a point off one of the top teams in Europe."

Pulis was also impressed with American summer signing Geoff Cameron, and revealed he is likely to be joined by countryman Maurice Edu next week.

"We watched Geoff quite a few times and he's a good player," Pulis said. "He's been away in America for 10 days and only trained one day with us. We couldn't get him back as he had to get some clearance and we have to wait 10 days to get him back.

"We've also taken Maurice Edu. Hopefully that will be completed by Monday. He's another player who's playing for the national team and there's a market out there I think."

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Key Points

  • Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers delighted by Liverpool's display
  • Roberto Mancini praises Manchester City's show of 'character'
  • Arsene Wenger still positive about Arsenal's title prospects despite 0-0 draw at Stoke