Updated: Thursday, 27 Mar 2014 07:25 | Comments
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists his side are still behind Chelsea and Manchester City in the Barclays Premier League title race but accepts they have proved their doubters wrong.
A 2-1 home win over Sunderland made it seven successive league victories and lifted the Reds back into second place, one point behind Chelsea and two ahead of City, who have two matches in hand,
Steven Gerrard’s free-kick and Daniel Sturridge’s 20th goal of the season either side of half-time put the hosts into a seemingly comfortable lead only for substitute Ki Sung-Yeung’s header to make for a tense finish in which John O’Shea could have snatched a late equaliser.
“I think people looked at us and thought we would tail off,” said Rodgers, who believes his team have the character to keep fighting.
“For us there is not the expectancy this year when you look at City, the squad they have and the money they’ve spent and Chelsea as well as they have been dominant over a number of years.
“The pressure will be there but the pressure is for ourselves. We are Liverpool, one of the biggest clubs in the world.
“We want to represent the club and be winners and we are on that path.
“I felt in the second part of this season we would be stronger because of the nature of our game.
“There were long spells that we were very good at that but as I said as the season goes on we will embrace that pressure and enjoy it
“We keep looking ahead of us, that’s always the mantra. We have to keep working well and stay calm.
“We are one point behind Chelsea and still have to play them here.
“But seven wins in a row is incredible at this level where teams are so competitive.”
Sturridge’s goal meant for the first time since Ian St John and Roger Hunt 50 years ago, the club has two players who have reached 20 league goals in a season.
It has happened only six times previously and in four of those campaigns they went on to win a league title – twice in Division One and twice in Division Two.
“I don’t see him (Sturridge) and Luis as a pair, they are both soloists, they have different qualities but long may it continue that they carry on scoring goals,” said Rodgers.
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet, whose side remain three points from safety, felt his side exceeded expectations at Anfield even if they came away empty-handed.
“We did something nobody expected. The game was set up for a big party, four or five goals (to Liverpool) and everyone celebrating after half an hour and the game went on and on and they couldn’t score,” he said.
“The idea was always to stay in the game, not lose the shape, believe in the system which we’ve never played before.
“It is all new but it shows when you understand the game a certain way you can put teams like Liverpool, in the kind of form they are, under pressure.”