Football

Rodgers hails Sterling effort

Brendan Rodgers revealed his bemusement at criticism of Raheem Sterling, whose Man-of-the-Match display fired Liverpool into the League Cup semi-finals.

The 20-year-old shone in the "false No. 9" position against Championship leaders Bournemouth and netted either side of Lazar Markovic's first goal for the Reds as they teed up a two-legged semi-final against Chelsea.

Sterling was on a 22-match goal drought, which stretched back to September. He continues to be linked with a move to Real Madrid as he is yet to sign a new deal at Anfield.

Rodgers said: "I thought he was outstanding. The kid, for some reason, seems to be getting a lot of stick off a lot of people for something.

"His contract situation is nothing to do with him and his representatives are working with the club.

"He is, as you can see, happy and enjoying his football. At Old Trafford, he was unfortunate not to score and, in that role he plays, you think of Alexis Sanchez when he plays 
for Arsenal.

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"He is not an out-and-out striker, but his speed in front of the back four and behind them causes problems and you've seen that with him here, he can get it, turn and go at defenders.

"He has been like that all season and been a real catalyst for us."

Sterling ended a stunning passing move with a close-range header to break the deadlock and he put the game beyond the Cherries with a textbook run and low finish.

The England winger should really have taken home the match ball, but dragged an effort wide after being superbly teed up by Adam Lallana, one of a number of chances squandered by a revitalised Liverpool.

And Rodgers saw plenty in the opening hour to suggest the worst weeks are behind his struggling side.

He said: "There is a long way to go but this was a tough game, coming to a side top of the Championship. They are going well and for us to come and dominate like we did and score the goals that we did was very pleasing." - PA Sport.