Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers can't afford anymore penalty shoot-out triumphs

By Tim Rich

It was a night to remember, the longest penalty shoot-out involving any top-flight English club.

However, although it was his side that won it, Brendan Rodgers cannot afford many more triumphs like this.

When all the high emotion of winning a penalty shoot-out 14-13 had faded into the Anfield night, the Liverpool manager would have asked himself how, even facing an exceptional Middlesbrough side, he came to be dragged into a shoot-out at all.

He would have known the answer.

Liverpool's defence, without Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel, is not good enough.

Rodgers remarked that both of Boro's goals – a set-piece that saw Adam Reach slip away from Jose Enrique and a penalty ridiculously conceded by Kolo Toure in the last seconds of extra-time – were entirely avoidable.

The 2-2 draw meant Liverpool have kept a single clean sheet this season.

"We are making far too many mistakes," said Rodgers.

"I was disappointed with both their goals, especially the second because by then Middlesbrough were tired and their legs had gone," added the Ulsterman.

The standard of penalty taking was so extraordinarily high that it could almost have been played out in front of Dortmund's Yellow Wall rather than the Kop.

Rodgers had put out a very strong side. He may have transformed Liverpool's play but he has yet to win silverware, and no cup can be ignored.

Although Rickie Lambert's first start in a Liverpool shirt was overshadowed by that of Jordan Rossiter who, 15 years younger, scored the opening goal with his first shot, the England striker would not have taken the night lightly, not least because he captained the side.

Born in Kirkby, not far from the Liverpool Academy where Rossiter (17) receives his football education, Lambert did not have to be persuaded to return to Merseyside.

It was a bold move by Rodgers since a big, classic English centre-forward is not the type of player associated with his favoured style of play.

Lambert gives Liverpool a Plan B, though he went home dissatisfied with his evening.

"I wasn't happy with my performance so that overshadowed the honour of being captain a little bit," he said.

"It was just things, touches. I didn't feel as sharp as I want to feel.

"I want to get my match fitness up because everyone knows I am not going to play every game and I have to adapt myself now."

Given that Lambert had missed a penalty in a shoot-out between Macclesfield and Forest Green that finished 11-10, it was perhaps a mercy he watched it from the bench.

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