Rodgers hails players after Europa heartbreak
Updated: Friday, 22 Feb 2013 08:08
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers hailed his players after they fell agonisingly short of producing a European fightback as Zenit St Petersburg escaped Anfield with a place in the Europa League's last 16.
After falling behind 3-0 on aggregate early in the second leg of their tie with the Russians, the Reds - backed by a typically vociferous crowd - responded to level the overall score.
Two superb free-kicks from Luis Suarez and a close-range Joe Allen effort gave Liverpool real hope of adding another famous victory to a lengthy list but Hulk's away goal ultimately proved decisive in a 3-1 win on the night.
Manager Brendan Rodgers said: "I'm very proud of the club and the players.
"I think, even though we lost the tie, the football club and players showed they are part of probably the world's greatest football family.
"To have to come back from a three-goal deficit and put that effort and quality into the game, it was an absolutely phenomenal show.
"I don't think the players could have done any more, the crowd certainly couldn't have done any more."
The result was a disappointing end to Anfield hero Jamie Carragher's European career.
The 35-year-old Champions League-winner was making his 150th appearance in continental competition but, with retirement looming, he will not remember it with fondness after his error led to the opening goal.
Rodgers sympathised with Carragher, whose recent form had been outstanding.
He said: "There is no blame. It is probably the first mistake I have seen him make since I came to the football club, and that includes every game in training.
"I am disappointed for Carra. He is a brilliant professional and deserved to go into the next round and play again, but unfortunately it is not to be."
Rodgers had no doubt his side should have had a spot-kick.
He said: "I don't think there was any doubt, especially when you have got an official behind the goal looking clear at it."