Brendan’s Gomel pride

Brendan Rodgers tonight spoke of his immense pride after winning his first game in charge of the Reds during Thursday night’s 1-0 win in Gomel.

It was the manager’s first competitive game at the helm and a fantastic Stewart Downing strike ensured Liverpool take a vital lead into next Thursday’s second leg at Anfield.

“I’m pleased and it was an excellent test for us,” Rodgers told his post-match press conference.

“Gomel are well into their season so for us it was a great game for our fitness, but it was also competitive.

“It was very important to get off to a good start and when you win any game it’s always important. I was delighted for the players.

“It was really special for me as it was the first competitive game. It wouldn’t have mattered where the game was, whether it was in Belarus or Brazil, it’s an honour for me to manage the club and I’m very proud to lead the players and be their manager.

“Hopefully this can be the start of many more wins and positive games for us.”

Rodgers admitted his players had to work hard for their victory.

He added: “It was difficult and Gomel’s tactical idea for the game was to sit back, close the spaces and play on the counter attack. You have to be patient. My message to the players at half-time was continue to be patient and the spaces will start to open up as Gomel tire.

“After an hour we changed the structure of our midfield so we could play Stevie ahead of the two controlling midfielders.

“As the game wore on we started to get more space and our quality began to show through.”

The boss was also asked about Downing’s display after he netted the all-important winner.

He added: “I was delighted for Stewart Downing. It was a wonderful strike and that’s why we put him on that side so he could come in and shoot.”

Rodgers also gave an update regarding the fitness of Joe Cole and Glen Johnson who both left the field.

“Glen was only scheduled to play 45 minutes anyway so he was taken off as planned,” added the manager.

“Joe just felt his hamstring a little bit. I don’t think it is totally pulled and it was just a little bit of tightness so we had to take him off. It disrupted our plans a little bit but it was better to have him come off rather than risk injury.”

Meanwhile one local journalist asked Rodgers how long it would take him to implement his philosophies on the squad.

He said: “How you play the game is based on the players you have. At this moment in time our squad isn’t complete and we still have work to do.

“It won’t happen overnight and it’s going to take time. What I was really pleased with tonight, which is a vital ingredient for success, is desire and commitment. For a lot of the players it was their first 90 minutes so when you have that you have something to build from.

“We have a lot of improvement to make but I am excited in the future we will make those improvements.”

Rodgers also reserved special praise for the people of Belarus who gave the squad a tremendous welcome during their stay in Gomel.

He added: “I want also to say a big thank you to the people of Gomel and Belarus. We were given a fantastic welcome and the hospitality has been great. On behalf of myself, the players and Liverpool FC I want to say a big thank you.

“I thought their crowd was fantastic and the atmosphere was excellent. It was just like in England where the passion for football is amazing.”

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