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Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers hails his troops for coming through fierce Bolton battle


Key moment: Raheem Sterling of Liverpool celebrates scoring the equaliser

Key moment: Raheem Sterling of Liverpool celebrates scoring the equaliser

Getty Images

Key moment: Raheem Sterling of Liverpool celebrates scoring the equaliser

Brendan Rodgers praised his Liverpool team for finding "another level" after they booked their place in the last 16 of the FA Cup.

Goals inside the last five minutes from Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho enabled the Reds to come from behind and edge to a 2-1 win at Bolton, who led through Eidur Gudjohnsen's 59th-minute penalty but had Neil Danns sent off soon after.

It was billed as Armagh v Antrim as Bolton chief Neil Lennon from Lurgan pitted his wits against Carnlough man Rodgers.

Lenny's boys sniffed an upset but Rodgers' classy side stamped their authority on the contest.

Rodgers said afterwards: "Over the last eight weeks the character, quality and intensity of the team has gone up another level.

"It was always going to be a tough game - Neil Lennon has made them a very difficult team to beat.

"It was nowhere near a penalty but at 1-0 down you are on the back foot away from home.

"We hit the bar five or six times and created other chances. We had a lot of attackers on the pitch at the end and their quality came through.

"You have to keep your patience, especially against 10 men.

"We needed to keep the width in the game.

"We've got great technical players.

"It was a hard fought game but we deserved to go through on chances we created."

Rodgers was also full of praise for Coutinho who produced a stunning winner.

The Brazil international has arguably been Liverpool's best player in their resurgence over the last two months and the Ulsterman believes the 22-year-old can reach even greater heights.

"You would pay money to watch the kid," he added.

"He is a great role model for lots of technical players in this country.

"He will become world class in the next couple of years.

"Luis Suarez grew and grew in this team and I can see Coutinho falling in the same way, although he might not be as prolific.

"Signing a new deal shows he is really committed to Liverpool and his development."

Next up is a trip to Crystal Palace on February 14 and Rodgers added: "This is a competition we want to do well in."

Sterling admitted he feared Liverpool's FA Cup dream was fading away.

He said: "It was a great team effort to stay in the game and get the win at the end. I was thinking at 1-0 and having hit the woodwork so many times it's not our day - but we stuck in there really well."

On his team-mate's injury-time winner, the England international added: "Philippe has that magic to turn the game on its head.

"It was great individual skill and a great finish. The important thing was to win. We go to Palace now and can hopefully nick a win there."

Lennon admitted his side were second best in the end but he felt referee Roger East did the underdogs few favours.

When asked what he didn't like about East's performance, the former Celtic boss said: "I thought he was rubbish. There you go...."

He added: "I'm not happy with the referee tonight at all.

"Neil Danns' first yellow card was not a booking and I'm not convinced that our penalty was a penalty either. This is a step up in class and you have to concentrate for 96 minutes. They scored two good goals but they could have been avoided.

" We were foot perfect for nearly 180 minutes in defence but it wasn't quite enough.

"The pressure came with being a man down against a great team.

"With four minutes to go we had a lack of concentration.

"The second goal, I think, gets a deflection but it is a great hit.

"The game's gone now but hopefully we can learn from that."

There are 10 Premier League sides still in the FA Cup, with Bradford City of League One the lowest-ranked side still in the mix.

Supporters are guaranteed at least one Championship side in the last eight as Derby face Reading.

FA Cup fifth round fixtures: Crystal Palace v Liverpool; Arsenal v Middlesbrough; Aston Villa v Leicester City; West Brom v West Ham; Bradford City v Sunderland; Blackburn Rovers v Stoke City; Derby County v Reading; Preston North End v Manchester Utd.

Belfast Telegraph