Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers declared tonight that Philippe Coutinho is heading towards the same bracket as Luis Suarez after the Brazilian’s excellent performance helped secure a late FA Cup fourth round win at Bolton.
Coutinho, whose 92nd minute winner confirmed why Liverpool this week offered him a contract which runs to 2020, had been dangerous all night. “He will become world class in the next couple of years,” said Rodgers, who had said going into this game that goals were the only component Coutinho needed to add, to make his football world class. “Luis Suarez was at a level then he played in this team and grew and grew with the model and went into the world-class bracket and I can see Coutinho falling in the same sort of way. He might not be as prolific as Suarez was but he is certainly on the way to that Liverpool. He is a wonderful, wonderful player. Signing a new deal shows he is really committed to Liverpool and his development.”
Bolton’s struggle to hold the 58th minute lead Eidur Gudjohnsen had given them with a penalty was a result of Neil Dann’s dismissal nine minutes later. That was an outcome which left Bolton manager Neil Lennon declaring that referee Roger East had been “rubbish.” It was Danns’ first yellow, which like the second was given for a foul on Liverpool’s Joe Allen, that antagonised Lennon.
“I told [Dann] at half time you have to be careful [after the first booking],” Lennon said. “I don’t think the ref had a choice [because the second yellow had to be given.] There were other things going on that we were not happy about. I just didn’t think he was very good and spoilt what would have been a decent spectacle.”
But Rodgers – Lennon’s Northern Irish compatriot – disagreed. “They are two bookings. It is clear it is a sending off. He had played well too, Danns,” the Liverpool manager said.
The ability to win games like this is part of Liverpool’s turn-around, which has seen them lose only once in 19 games since the season low point of their November 23 defeat at Crystal Palace – their FA Cup 5th Round opponents. “We have got a great habit at the minute, which is winning games,” Rodgers said. “You can’t question the character. They have shown a real strong mentality in my time here. We needed to arrest the momentum which was going the other way after the Palace game. We did that with seven points out of nine. It was then a case of putting something in place. It is pleasing because you can see the confidence”.
Rodgers said he would be managing the game time of Daniel Sturridge, a substitute again tonight. “When he is fully fit he plays, simple as that. He is a great player for us at the moment to come off the bench.”