Jon Flanagan: We want title for Gerrard
Liverpool defender Jon Flanagan believes no one deserves a Premier League title more than captain Steven Gerrard.
After Sunday's 3-2 win over Manchester City the clearly emotional Reds skipper was at the centre of a team huddle giving out words of advice to his teammates.
Gerrard, who is more desperate than most to claim a Premier League winners' medal as it is the only club honour missing from his trophy cabinet, effectively told the players they had to forget the result and turn their focus to struggling Norwich at Carrow Road next weekend.
And the midfielder’s determination to see through the job of ending a 24-year wait for a title in the club's final four games has left a mark on his teammates.
“It is phenomenal. He has carried this club for years and he deserves this,'' Flanagan told the Liverpool Echo. “I think all the lads are doing it for themselves but also for Stevie as well.''
Liverpool produced their trademark fast start at home and were 2-0 up inside 26 minutes courtesy of Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel and, although they were pegged back by City, Philippe Coutinho struck the winner.
While no one at Anfield is getting ahead of themselves, Flanagan believes the performance and result against City, now seven points behind them at the top end of the table, has proved they have the nerve to successfully negotiate the final month of the season.
“They are a great side and we have sent a message out -- it was a great performance and a great three points,'' he added. “There are always nerves going into such a big game in the title race but as soon as the game is on you focus on that.
“We knew they were going to come out strongly [in the second half] and there was a bit of sloppy defending for their two goals but we still showed our spirit and finally got the third goal.
“We can believe now. All the fans are believing we can do it now and we said in the huddle we'll go again next week as we've done nothing yet and that result has gone now. We have to stay focused and go again at Norwich away, we have to keep going right until the end.''
The two downsides to the victory were the late red card shown to midfielder Jordan Henderson for his challenge on Pablo Zabaleta, which will rule him out for three matches, and the hamstring problem sustained by Daniel Sturridge, who left the ground limping heavily.
“Sturridge felt tightness in his hamstring so we will see how that is in the next couple of days,'' Reds manager Brendan Rodgers said. “The only sour point to the game is Henderson's red card. He has just had a touch late on in the game, probably through tiredness, but he actually touches the ball as he stretches for it. I felt that was a bit harsh and it is unfortunate as he has been brilliant for us.''
Rodgers displayed his tactical flexibility again as with the game being taken away from his side at 2-2, he made a switch which paid off.
“Second half you expect City to come back and the first goal gave them momentum and we were unfortunate to concede the second,'' he said. “I felt they started to get more energy so we changed from the diamond to 4-3-3 to open up the game a bit when we had the ball but also to protect the sides when we were defending and that allowed us to get some control back.''
Neither Luis Suarez nor Sturridge came anywhere close to their best but the efforts of others meant they were not missed.
“We don't demand goals from the strikers, we just demand they give their best and some days they have off days but they are working for the cause, which is most important,'' Rodgers added.
“Raheem Sterling's goal was brilliant, showing great strength and then making the yard [of space] against top players and scoring with that composure is what we want.''