Rodgers holds high hopes for top-four finish
(Philippe Coutinho 45, Martin Skrtel 90+7)
(Mathieu Debuchy 45+2, Olivier Giroud 64)
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers felt his players demonstrated the character necessary to revitalise their challenge for a top-four Premier League finish in their last-gasp 2-2 draw with Arsenal yesterday morning (Singapore time).
After Philippe Coutinho's opener was swiftly cancelled out by Mathieu Debuchy in first-half stoppage time at Anfield, Olivier Giroud struck in the 64th minute to set Arsenal up for an opportunistic victory.
But, having earlier required treatment for a head wound inflicted by Giroud that left him with a bandaged head and led to nine minutes of injury time, Martin Skrtel claimed an equaliser with an emphatic 97th-minute header in front of the Kop.
The point was the least Liverpool deserved after restricting Arsenal to a 36.5 per cent share of possession - their worst performance in that domain since passing statistics began to be compiled in 2003.
And, although Liverpool trail leaders Chelsea by 17 points and lie nine points adrift of the Champions League places, Rodgers is convinced that last season's runners-up are on the right track.
Asked if Liverpool could sustain a challenge for a top-four finish, he said: "Yes, absolutely.
"It was always going to be a big challenge. Of course, we've got to make up points over the next part of the season, but we have shown this is a group that can go on a run of games (wins).
"In the second half of last season, we went on a run of 11 games and, if we can put a run of games together, that can very quickly move you up.
"The most important thing is the confidence and the ability in the team. You bring (injured striker Daniel) Sturridge back next month, then you get back to being that team we have been in the last few years.
"There's a bit of work to do, but at least we're moving in the right direction again, which is what we want."
Rodgers was pleased with the "intensity" and "arrogance with the ball" Liverpool showed, but he was less complimentary about his side's defending.
Citing the build-up to Debuchy's goal, when the hosts were beaten in the air three times after Alexis Sanchez curled a free-kick into the box, he said: "A lot of the goals we give away are poor goals.
"I didn't think it should have been a free-kick. I think Sanchez has dived once he realised he wasn't getting the ball, and the referee fell for it.
"But, when it comes in, we lose three one-versus-one headers in the box. We have to be better at that. That's not about organisation. That's about winning the duel."
Rodgers said he had "no complaints" about the injury-time dismissal of substitute Fabio Borini, who collected yellow cards for dissent and a high boot against Santi Cazorla.
He also paid tribute to Slovakia centre back Skrtel, who stayed on to score the winner despite having been left with an ugly gash on the back of his head after Giroud unintentionally caught him with his studs.
"He's a real warrior, Martin," said the Northern Irishman, whose side registered 27 attempts on goal. "He showed great character and determination to stay on."
Key to Liverpool's success will be the return to fitness of Sturridge, who has not played for the club since Aug 31 after sustaining a thigh injury on international duty.
"That will be just after the Christmas period," added Rodgers of Sturridge's schedule.
"The first stage of his rehab was in Los Angeles. He's gone to Boston and he will move on to a specialist facility there and, hopefully in the early part of the new year, he will be back.
"Some point next month, we will get him back and that will be really exciting for this team." - Wire Services.
It was massively important we got something from the game. We can take momentum from that goal into the Christmas period and need to start turning draws and performances into wins.
- Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana