Rodgers: Villa were better team

Published: Sunday 19th April 2015 by The News Editor

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Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits his side were beaten by the better team as the Reds were denied a place in the FA Cup final by a resurgent Aston Villa.

Villa came from behind to win 2-1 at Wembley as strikes from Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph cancelled out Philippe Coutinho’s opener.

Liverpool entered the contest as strong favourites, leading their opponents by 25 points in the Barclays Premier League, but Villa deserved their victory after a dynamic and dominant display.

“We’re obviously bitterly disappointed but more with the performance,” Rodgers said.

“You can always lose a game but you need to play well and give yourself an opportunity.

“We had some chances but I thought they were better than us today to be honest.”

Rodgers continued: “Sometimes you can want to win too much. The focus comes away from what allows you to win.

“The team in the last couple of years have shown great energy, attitude and commitment – I thought our energy was low today.

“Villa had a good start to the game and we were too passive.

“We changed the system, got some joy and got in front but we didn’t keep the lead long enough.

“In the second half we hoped to play better but we just didn’t create enough today.”

The defeat means there will be no fairytale ending to Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool career.

The FA Cup final, which comes on Gerrard’s 35th birthday, would have been the midfielder’s last game in a Reds shirt before he leaves for America and LA Galaxy in the summer.

“Is it a shame? Absolutely,” Rodgers said.

“He did everything he possibly could to help the team. I thought he was excellent today. Collectively we didn’t perform well enough.”

Liverpool have struggled to produce their best form in big matches this season, losing important league games to Arsenal and Manchester United in recent weeks, as well as failing to deliver in the Champions League earlier in the campaign.

“We need to have the courage now to play better in the big games because we didn’t play well enough today,” Rodgers said.

“Technically we weren’t quite on it. We looked like the occasion got to us a little bit.”

Rodgers added: “The players have that courage, you’ve just got to be consistent with it.

“That ability to build a game from behind and deal with the pressure, it’s important.”

Villa will now face Arsenal in their first FA Cup final since losing to Chelsea 1-0 in 2000.

It also continues the club’s recent revival under new boss Tim Sherwood, who has now engineered five victories in the team’s last eight matches.

“It’s a great occasion for the football club,” Sherwood said.

“Obviously nothing is won yet but not a lot of people gave us a chance coming here against Liverpool.

“We believed it and when we stepped on that pitch we realised our fans believed it as well and that means an awful lot to us.

“They were magnificent, especially when we went behind, they dragged us back into the game.

“I thought we dominated the football after that and caused Liverpool a lot of problems.”

Sherwood admits his side will be underdogs again in the final, with the Gunners looking to defend their crown and secure their 12th FA Cup title.

“We will be the underdogs, the pressure is on Arsenal,” Sherwood said.

“It’s going to be tough. Arsenal are the holders and probably the best footballing side in the league.

“They can make this pitch look very, very big so we’re going to have to get a plan ready. We think we can cause them problems.

“It’s on the back burner now and it’s important we get some points to secure our Premier League status next season.”

Villa will be without Nathan Baker for the relegation fight after Sherwood revealed the defender had suffered a recurrence of a knee injury and is unlikely to play again this season.

Published: Sunday 19th April 2015 by The News Editor

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