Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers ready for tight finish to Europa League progression

 

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers acknowledges his side's chances of qualifying for the knockout stage of the Europa League will go down to the wire.

A 1-0 defeat to Anzhi Makhachkala in Moscow, the Reds' second in Group A, saw them slip from top spot in the table.

Young Boys, whom they beat 5-3 in Switzerland, visit Anfield in a fortnight but even a win may still not guarantee progress if the other result goes against them before the final trip to face Udinese next month.

"It's a very tight group," said Rodgers.

"It was always going to go down to the last game. The next one is now a big game for us now against Young Boys.

"We just move on to the next game in the group and that is one we have to focus on because we have to win."

Lacina Traore's superbly-taken goal seconds before half-time, when he spun Sebastian Coates and lobbed goalkeeper Brad Jones, was the difference and, although the Ivorian missed a straightforward chance to clinch victory after the break, the hosts held on.

Rodgers was criticised for not taking big-name stars like Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez to Russia with a trip to Chelsea looming on Sunday but he believed the side he put out - which comprised nine Englishmen with an average age of less than 24 - did enough.

"I thought they did really well and we just got punished for a mistake. That led to us losing the game," he added.

"I don't think it was anything to do with Suarez, Gerrard, Joe Allen, Martin Skrtel or Daniel Agger not being here.

"Tactically our concentration was very good. We controlled the game for 44 minutes and 50 seconds of the first half

"We made a bad mistake and got punished and that is the levels.

"It was more of the same second half. We had chances and there is real disappointment in the changing room and I felt for the players.

"I thought the performance level was good on a difficult pitch but I thought the players played the system tactically very well.

"We just find ourselves unfortunate not to get something from a very difficult place."

Rodgers was keen to take positives from the game, which saw 19-year-old midfielder Conor Coady make his maiden first-team appearance.

"Young Coady made his debut and did very well in that controlling role," added the Northern Irishman.

"And for Jon Flanagan it was his first game for a long time."

PA

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