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Now Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers can finish on Wembley high note

By Steven Beacom

Published 09/04/2015

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has his sights on the FA Cup
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has his sights on the FA Cup

Liverpool's season is still alive and Brendan Rodgers is going to Wembley.

The Ulsterman has happy memories of the place.

It was there in 2011 that his Swansea team won a pulsating Championship play-off final 4-2 against Reading to take the Welsh side into the Premier League.

It was also the day that Rodgers came to the attention of the wider footballing public, impressed by Swansea's entertaining and enterprising style of play on the famous turf.

The date back then? May 30, the same as this year's FA Cup final, when Steven Gerrard will turn 35.

April 19 will be on the Carnlough native's mind first though, because that's when Liverpool will meet Aston Villa in their FA Cup semi after seeing off Blackburn Rovers in last night's quarter-final replay at Ewood Park.

Philippe Coutinho not for the first time this season, produced a piece of magic to score the decisive goal in a hard fought 1-0 victory for the visitors.

The Brazilian's clinical strike, after a clever one-two with Jordan Henderson, on 70 minutes came at a time when Rovers fancied an upset.

It was a massive goal for Liverpool, a big one for suspended skipper Gerrard, desperate to finish his career at the club with a flourish before moving to LA Galaxy, and hugely important for Rodgers too.

After Premier League defeats to top four rivals Manchester United and Arsenal, making it in the manager's words 'almost impossible' to qualify for next season's Champions League, he would have faced severe criticism had the Reds lost to a mid table side in the division below them.

Rodgers needed the win in a campaign that has been one of the most testing of his managerial life. Now he will firmly believe that it can have a happy ending.

Villa have improved under new boss Tim Sherwood, but Liverpool ought to have too much quality for them to set up a cracking final with Arsenal, likely to overcome Reading in the other last four clash.

Last night the first half was a non event with Blackburn sitting tight and getting numbers behind the ball. Liverpool had plenty of possession but frankly weren't good enough to break the opposition down.

It was sleepy stuff in front of Blackburn's biggest home crowd for four years. Thankfully Rovers woke up after the break and had Simon Mignolet not saved superbly from Tom Cairney and Ben Marshall, Liverpool would have been struggling to stay in the Cup.

They needed inspiration and got it from Coutinho, their classiest performer this season. He has the ability to light up Wembley. So too Gerrard, who'll be back from suspension for the Villa game, aiming to ensure a big birthday bash in May. Rodgers should play his skipper from the start.

Belfast Telegraph

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