Boss on Crystal Palace – Composure, Daniel Sturridge, Mario Balotelli and more

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Liverpool progressed to the last eight of the FA Cup with victory over Crystal Palace…

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has praised his side’s composure after we came from behind to beat Crystal Palace on Saturday, and advance to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

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Despite enjoying more possession and the better chances in the first-half, we found ourselves behind to Frazier Campbell’s 15th minute strike, while we had goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to thank for not going in 2-0 down, after the Belgian saved brilliantly at the feet of Dwight Gayle.

Thankfully, Rodgers’ decision to introduce Mario Ballotelli at the half-time interval proved to be a master-stroke. The Italian created new problems for Palace, who struggled to cope with us playing with a front two.

Within five minutes of the restart, Daniel Sturridge fired us level with a well-taken close range volley, before Palace keeper Julian Speroni spilled Balotelli’s free-kick and Adam Lallana tucked in what proved to be the winner.

Speaking after the game, Rodgers told Liverpool’s official website: “I thought we were outstanding. After that first goal that they scored, I thought the team was very good.

“It was certainly a different feeling to when we were here before. I think you saw the confidence in the team and the composure today.

“Alan [Pardew] has done a great job in a short period of time, making them really hard to beat and he has won games. So for us to get the victory like we did and the goals and create a lot of chances, it was very pleasing.

“Importantly, we defended well when we had to. There were a lot of long balls into the box from different angles, free-kicks, set-pieces and corners. I thought we dealt with them very well. Huge credit to the players. We’ve had a great week in terms of our results.

“The players turned it around. We just felt at half-time that we were creating enough chances. I felt we needed to be more aggressive. We started the game not as aggressively as we would have wanted.

“They have players who want to compete. We felt once we shortened the pitch in the second half, we moved the game higher up the field, kept the ball and it was only going to be a matter of time.

“I thought the players showed great composure and great character in that second half.”

Rodgers also singled-out strike pair Sturridge and Balotelli for special praise, describing the former’s finish as instinctive before praising Mario for his new-found work ethic.

“He’s just working his way back,” Rodgers said of Sturridge.

“It’s just about extending his game time. I’ve got to do that. You just risk re-injuring him and that’s something that we can’t afford.

“But you see his qualities, his speed, his touch and he doesn’t need too many chances. He looked really bright. The team is really functioning at a high level at the moment. Daniel coming back gives us a great boost for this next part of the season.”

The Northern Irishman then added of Balotelli: “He’s training well. He’s starting to really work and really focus on his job and the team.

“He got the winner against Tottenham and did very well. He did very well today. He had good strength and got good power on the free-kick, which forced the ‘keeper to make the save and Adam gets the finish.

“Earlier in the season we played a diamond and those two [Sturridge and Balotelli] played together and did very well.

“We’ve shifted the system from the last time that we were here [at Selhurst Park]. When the two of them are up there, they are a threat. They are both talented players and they can function in whatever system.”

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