Belfast Telegraph

Brendan Rodgers offers up no excuses for Liverpool's FA Cup defeat

By Sam Wallace

Brendan Rodgers conceded there could be no excuses for his Liverpool team whom he accused of "lacking energy" as they went limply to an FA Cup semi-final defeat to Aston Villa at Wembley.

The Liverpool manager said his side would "fight to the end" for a Champions League place but admitted that the performance, in which they took the lead through Philippe Coutinho, was well below his own expectations. There was an equaliser from Christian Benteke and a second half winner from Fabian Delph and very little response from Rodgers' team.

Rodgers said: "We're obviously bitterly disappointed, more with the performance. You can always lose a game but you'd hope you play well and give yourself an opportunity. I thought we were second best to be honest. We had some chances but Aston Villa were better than us."

"The start of the season was not so good, the middle of the season we picked up and we were playing very well and winning games with great rhythm and flow to our game. Then this last block of games, it's more the performance level hasn't been what we would like.

"We have reached two semi-finals, we need to have the courage and bravery to play better in the big games. Technically we weren't quite on it. We looked as if the occasion and the energy got to us a wee bit. But that's what can happen sometimes."

"Sometimes you can want to win too much and the focus comes away from what allows you to win. For a team that over the last couple of years has showed a great energy and commitment with our attitude in the game, I thought our energy was low. Aston Villa had a good start and I felt we were too passive in the game."

The Liverpool manager defended his tactical switch in the first half. "I always look at my own team and I thought that movement and sharpness of our game was missing. I needed to change it after that first 20 to 25 minutes and that brought us a little bit more control of the game… it's something I've done regularly within games."

Tim Sherwood said he believed that his Aston Villa side had outplayed Liverpool with the benefit of a tactical change that caught out their opponents.

"We normally go very direct, and use our pace down the sides, I think Liverpool would have expected us to do that. But we passed it short through the thirds and caused some problems in the little pockets… they were a little bit bamboozled, to be honest."

He conceded the FA Cup final against Arsenal would be "tough".

"Arsenal are the holders and probably the best footballing side in the league. They can make this pitch look very, very big. We have to get a plan ready. We think we can cause them problems. It's on the back burner, it's important we get some points to preserve our Premier League status."

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