Reds plot top four as­sault

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

DUBAI — No­vak Djokovic (pic­tured) pre­viewed his de­fence of the Dubai Open ti­tle with a trib­ute to the role of his head coach Boris Becker in the spec­tac­u­lar ad­vances made in the 14 months they have been work­ing to­gether.

Dur­ing that time the Ser­bian has won two Grand Slam ti­tles, tak­ing his to­tal to eight, and built an over­whelm­ing lead as world num­ber one - now nearly 4 000 rank­ing points.some of the credit, he claims, should go to Becker, whose ex­pe­ri­ence in win­ning six Grand Slam ti­tles and two Davis Cups with Ger­many has helped Djokovic cope with the psy­cho­log­i­cal stress of con­tin­u­ously play­ing at the very high­est level of the game.

“Es­pe­cially in the sec­ond half of 2014 things started to get to­gether and clicked for us in the re­la­tion­ship, on and off the court,” Djokovic said. “We never had an ar­gu­ment, we never had a fight.“now it’s been a lit­tle bit over a year and I learn con­stantly some­thing new from him from a psy­cho­log­i­cal point of view, mostly be­cause he has been in th­ese sit­u­a­tions be­fore.

“So he un­der­stands what I go through, the chal­lenges that I face, the ob­sta­cles that I need to over­come to win big ti­tles and to be num­ber one in the world, be­cause he was there,” Djokovic added. — AFP LIVER­POOL — Liver­pool manager Bren­dan Rodgers said he had Ar­se­nal and Manch­ester United in his sights af­ter his team closed on the Cham­pi­ons League places with a 2-0 suc­cess at Southamp­ton.

A glo­ri­ous 30-yard strike by Philippe Coutinho put Liver­pool ahead in the third minute of Sun­day’s game at St Mary’s and af­ter a num­ber of vain Southamp­ton penalty ap­peals, Ra­heem Ster­ling sealed victory late on.

Liver­pool play sec­ond-place Manch­ester City next week­end be­fore tack­ling fourth­place United and third-place Ar­se­nal over the next six weeks, and Rodgers is con­fi­dent they can close the two-point gap sep­a­rat­ing them from the Pre­mier League’s top four.

Asked if he was ap­pre­hen­sive about Liver­pool’s fix­ture list, which also in­cludes a trip to Be­sik­tas in the Europa League to­day, Rodgers replied: “Not at all.

“We might have been at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son be­cause of how we were play­ing. But when the team’s in the con­di­tion it has been for th­ese last two-and-a-half, three months, then we rel­ish ev­ery game we play.

“We have Man City and Man United at home, Ar­se­nal away. For us it was a big step to­day (Sun­day), con­sid­er­ing the start we’ve had to the sea­son. It re­ally shows the con­sis­tency the play­ers are at.”

While there was much for Rodgers to savour in Liver­pool’s smash-and-grab win, he was dis­mayed by the re­cep­tion af­forded to his for­mer Southamp­ton play­ers Adam Lal­lana and Rickie Lam­bert, who moved to An­field last year.

Although Lam­bert was granted a warm re­cep­tion by the home fans, Lal­lana was roundly jeered, and Rodgers was also dis­ap­pointed that nei­ther player re­ceived a trib­ute in the match-day pro­gramme.

“I’m a wee bit dis­ap­pointed for Adam, I’ve got to say,” said the North­ern Ir­ish­man, whose side have gone 10 league games with­out de­feat.

“Adam was cap­tain here for two years and gave an in­cred­i­ble ser­vice to Southamp­ton and I know for a fact he could have left here a num­ber of times, and didn’t. And to get the re­cep­tion he got was dis­ap­point­ing.

“I looked in the match pro­gramme and there was noth­ing rel­e­vant to his time here and all the time that he’s been here since he was a boy.

“And the likes of Rickie Lam­bert, great ser­vants here, in­cred­i­ble play­ers who got the club to where it is to­day, and there was no men­tion of them, which I thought was sad.”

Filip Djuri­cic, mak­ing his first Southamp­ton start, had penalty ap­peals waved away by ref­eree Kevin Friend ei­ther side of Coutinho’s goal and manager Ron­ald Koe­man felt that the sec­ond, when the on-loan Ser­bian for­ward ap­peared to be felled by Joe Allen, mer­ited a spot-kick.

Southamp­ton were also ag­grieved when Simon Mig­no­let raced out of his box to re­pel an at­tempted lob by El­jero Elia shortly be­fore half­time, in an in­ci­dent that saw the ball strike the Liver­pool goal­keeper on the chest be­fore bounc­ing up and hit­ting his arm.

“The sit­u­a­tion of Elia, hands or no hands of the goal­keeper, it’s dif­fi­cult to see,” said Koe­man, whose side re­main fifth, a point above Liver­pool.“i can un­der­stand the de­ci­sion of the ref­eree, but I don’t un­der­stand the sec­ond sit­u­a­tion in the game (Allen’s chal­lenge on Djuri­cic) be­cause that’s a clear penalty.

“But I’m proud of how the team played to­day. We know in the last few games we’ve strug­gled with scor­ing goals.

“If you play three times in a row and don’t score (at home), it’s dif­fi­cult to win games, but that’s part of foot­ball.”

Koe­man also re­vealed that Sene­galese for­ward Sa­dio Mane had started the game on the bench be­cause he had re­ported late for the team’s pre-match meal.

“Every­body can be late one day, in the morn­ing,” the Dutch­man said. “But you can’t be late at one o’clock when you have to play against Liver­pool.” — AFP

PHILIPPE Coutinho scores the first goal for Liver­pool against Southamp­ton on Sun­day.

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