LIVERPOOL boss Brendan Rodgers believes his side’s FA Cup quarter-final replay success over Blackburn Rovers last night can reinvigorate their stumbling Premier League campaign following successive defeats.
Brazil playmaker Philippe Coutinho proved the match-winner with a second-half clincher to set up a semi-final clash against Aston Villa, enhancing his reputation as Liverpool’s FA Cup talisman following his classy winner at Bolton in round four.
The Reds’ victory also maintains the possibility of club captain Steven Gerrard bowing out of English football by lifting silverware at a Wembley final on 30 May, which happens to be his 35th birthday.
“I made the point to the players that if we could get through to the semi-final it could give us a kick on in the league,” said Rodgers.
“We have had two poor performances [against Manchester United and Arsenal] and been criticised. Tonight we performed very well. Over the two games it was a difficult tie. They are strong and well organised but my players were brilliant.”
Liverpool had conceded as many goals in their past two matches as in their previous 12 and those defensive frailties were evident as Blackburn dangerman Jordan Rhodes steered over a free header from an inswinging Craig Conway cross.
The visitors threatened through midfielder Joe Allen’s early volley and a dipping Daniel Sturridge effort, while Rovers’ FA Cup keeper Simon Eastwood was also forced to bundle behind a strike from Coutinho.
A swerving Tom Cairney shot tested Liverpool stopper Simon Mignolet at the start of the second period as Ben Marshall’s bullet header from the resulting corner struck the post. Seven-time FA Cup winners Liverpool secured their passage to the last four on 70 minutes when Coutinho exchanged a neat one-two with Jordan Henderson to carve open the Blackburn defence before drilling low across Eastwood.
■ Saturday 18 April, 5:20pm
Reading v Arsenal
■ Sunday 19 April,3pm
Aston Villa v Liverpool