Writer: Gavin Kelley-Day
Date:Friday February 22 2013
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers reveals his pride despite his side falling agonisingly short of overcoming the odds against Zenit Saint Petersburg...
Liverpool exited the Europa League on Thursday night but not before giving Russian side Zenit Saint Petersburg an almighty scare.
The Reds' 2-0 first-leg deficit was compounded by an early mistake from Jamie Carragher that allowed Brazilian striker Hulk to score a vital away goal and make an up hill task look almost insurmountable.
But, roared on by an electric Anfield atmosphere and with Luis Suarez at his imperious best, the hosts fought back to level the tie on aggregate, ultimately suffering elimination courtesy of the away goals rule.
Two expertly dispatched Suarez free-kicks, the second of which was particularly impressive, and a goal from Joe Allen, who converted his own close-range rebound, gave Liverpool hope but a decisive fourth strike never arrived.
Despite the exit, Kop boss Brendan Rodgers was understandably delighted with the effort of his players, describing their performance as 'phenomenal' at his post-match press conference.
"We're very proud of the club and the players tonight," admitted the former Swansea City manager.
"Even though we lost the tie, tonight the football club and the players showed why they're part of the world's greatest football family here at Liverpool with the atmosphere and what the players put into the game.
"To have to come back from a three-goal deficit and put that effort, quality and character into the game was absolutely phenomenal - and I felt we should have had a penalty as well.
"I don't think the players could have done anymore. The crowd could not have done anymore. It was a fantastic night, but unfortunately we probably lost the tie over there.
"At this level to have to score that many goals and for us to nearly do it, gives me great pride in how the players performed."
Defeat means the Merseysiders are now out of all cup competitions this season but Rodgers still believes there is plenty to play for in the remaining league fixtures.
"Our season doesn't finish - and was never going to finish - until the final whistle against QPR," continued the 40-year-old.
"This is a group that is growing all the time. You see the level of performance tonight - to dominate a team of that ilk and control the game like we did was incredible.
"For us going forward, it's to continue with how we've been working since the turn of the year. As the season has gone on, we've got better and improved. We want to carry that through until the very final whistle at the end of the season. You can see the players' hunger and determination to do that - and we'll look to do that in the last 11 games."
Liverpool lie 7th in the standings currently and trail 4th placed Tottenham Hotspur by nine points, having also played a game more than their London based rivals.
Fittingly, on the subject of the game that had just taken place, Rodgers reserved his final words for the supporters and the amazing atmosphere they generated.
"It was absolutely breathtaking. One of the real values of this football club is unity. Everyone came together tonight and we just missed out," added Rodgers.
"Hopefully in the future there will be many more great nights for us to celebrate.
"Having sampled that as a manager in the home dugout, I want many more occasions like that with bigger prizes.
"We really needed them tonight and they were right behind us all the way. We're disappointed we couldn't do it for them, but hopefully there will be many more in the future that we can do for them."
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Date:Friday February 22 2013
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