• Europa League

Rodgers defends decision to play stars

ESPN staff
October 26, 2012
Brendan Rodgers hopes Stewart Downing's goal has boosted his confidence

Brendan Rodgers has defended his decision to field a strong team in Liverpool's Europa League win over Anzhi Makhachkala on Thursday night, insisting he never considered resting players.

Rodgers could have been pardoned for not risking some of his bigger players, including Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez, ahead of Sunday's Merseyside derby.

But Gerrard and Suarez both featured as Stewart Downing led the Reds to the top of Group A and Rodgers says he had no reservations in pushing for the three points.

"For us, it is about taking it one game at a time," Rodgers said. "Our squad is not overly big, but we were at home and the condition of the players physically is very good. So I had no concerns about that.

"The work rate in training and the games has been fantastic. We will recover well after a very good performance and result, and now we are all really looking forward to Sunday."

Rodgers hailed Liverpool's defensive effort, which yielded a third consecutive clean sheet and proved resilient against an Anzhi attack led by Samuel Eto'o.

"Anzhi have a terrific group of players - they have invested heavily in it and they have a top manager," he said. "So to get a win and keep another clean sheet was excellent, and I thought we deserved it.

"I thought our intent in the game was good. We wanted to go forward, and particularly in the second half, we stepped it up and did very well.

"And it was a wonderful strike by Stewart - a great goal, and a good one to win the game. His commitment tonight was excellent. He had to play in a different position in the second half, but he has got the quality to do that."

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