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Europe not on Brendan Rodgers' mind

Updated: Monday, 11 Mar 2013 10:50 | Comments

Steven Gerrard scores the winner for Liverpool yesterday
Steven Gerrard scores the winner for Liverpool yesterday

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists he is not thinking about European football next season despite closing the gap on the top four.

The 3-2 victory over third-placed Tottenham moved the Reds ahead of Everton into sixth, seven points away from Champions League qualification.

With nine matches left, it remains a tall order and Rodgers is not wasting any time worrying about the 'what ifs'.

"It is not important at all (to go ahead of Everton), it is just important we move and grow in the nature I thought we would," said Rodgers, after watching his side record three successive league wins for the first time since May 2011.

"I'm not thinking of European qualification. We know where we want to be and we want to be challenging at the top end but we keep looking to the next game.

"We are at the business end now and this is the time to win and narrow our focus on the games and that's what we've been doing.

"We will just keep collecting points and see where it takes us.

"It was an important three points. We hadn't won against anyone in the top ten, then it was top eight and then it was the top four so the most important thing for me is the growth in the group.

"In some of the games in this little run, the quality we have shown it has been about the other teams not playing well, and the players didn't get the credit for how they have been performing.

"But they came through the test. We can play better than that but it was important for our character and resilience and the goals were of quality.

"We were playing against an opponent in third place and over the last few years they have been up there challenging for the Champions League, and it's been a few years since Liverpool have beaten Tottenham (the last win came in January 2010).

"We know where we want to be eventually but this is another marker for us in terms of our growth."

The Premier League's top scorer Luis Suarez opened the scoring by surprising Hugo Lloris at his near post with a first-time shot with the outside of his right foot.

However, Spurs wrested back control and two Jan Vertonghen goals in the few minutes either side of half-time - created by crosses from Gareth Bale - turned the match in the visitors' favour.

However, Kyle Walker's disastrous backpass put Lloris in trouble and Stewart Downing capitalised to score for the second successive match before Suarez was brought down by Benoit Assou-Ekotto to allow Steven Gerrard to stroke home an 82nd-minute winner from the spot.

It ended Tottenham's 12-match unbeaten run but manager Andre Villas-Boas felt his side deserved more from the game.

"It is difficult for us to take because we did ever so well to come back into the game in the first half and we started brightly in the second half," he said.

"We lost control of the game when things looked to be going our way, which was more down to a couple of mistakes we did rather than to Liverpool's merit - although they worked very hard."

Villas-Boas refused to blame fatigue after Thursday's 3-0 Europa League win over Inter Milan for allowing Liverpool back into the game.

"I think we looked very strong and the overall performance was excellent - it had nothing to do with tiredness," he added.

"Liverpool pressed us hard on that (Walker) backpass and they deserve credit for that as they put us under pressure very quickly.

"Sometimes moments like this happen and you can't be too negative to a player who has done well in a 12-game unbeaten run.

"Hopefully this setback can serve as an example to move forward."

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