Brendan Rodgers Hails Stewart Downing’s Resurgence, Liverpool’s Response to Aston Villa Loss

Stewart Downing and Lucas LeivaBrendan Rodgers praised Stewart Downing’s performance after the winger netted his first Barclays Premier League goal for Liverpool and grabbed an assist in the Reds’ 4-0 victory over Fulham.

The 28-year-old was in fine form from start to finish as the Reds put the disappointment of defeat to Aston Villa a week ago firmly behind them with a dominant display.

He carved Steven Gerrard’s goal — the second of the game — with a perfectly-weighted through ball and then raced in from the right touchline and fired past Mark Schwarzer for 3-0.

“I thought Stewart was brilliant today, in every aspect of the game,” Rodgers told his post-game news press conference.

“I spoke to Stewart about six or seven weeks ago, and we had an honest conversation about where he was at. He’s in his late 20s, he was an England international a few years ago, and he wasn’t playing [regularly for Liverpool]. So we spoke about how he could get into the team. And I think his reaction from that moment, like it has been for Jose Enrique and one or two of the others, has been outstanding.

“His goal today was a fantastic strike, and he combines very well with Glen Johnson out on the right side because he clears space for Glen to run into. Stewart’s movement is really intelligent and his pass for Steven’s goal was superb.

“You’ll find with attacking players, because their job is always to take people on, if it’s not quite happening for them, they need that bit of support. But all they can do is work hard.

“Stewart has played a lot of games. He’s a very important member of our group at the minute and if he keeps performing like that, hopefully he’ll establish himself in [the side] and show the talent he clearly has. If he keeps playing like that, he’ll be going nowhere — he’ll be staying in the team and that’s what it’s about.”

A week on from a 3-1 loss to Villa at Anfield, the Reds were an entirely different proposition as they took the game to Fulham right from the off.

Martin Skrtel smashed the ball home after eight minutes to give them the lead, Gerrard slotted the second before Downing and Luis Suarez both notched to seal a 4-0 victory.

“I thought we were outstanding today,” said Rodgers. “I knew we would get a reaction because I have very honest players here, working very hard every day.

“Last week was disappointing, but this week we have had our first clear week of work and we have worked through from Saturday to Saturday. And I think you saw the reaction today. The pressing was outstanding and the quality of the football and the goals was brilliant.”

The win propelled the Reds to eighth place in the league table and to within five points of third-placed Arsenal.

And with a hectic Christmas schedule now underway, Rodgers is confident his side can build on a resounding result and continue to climb the standings.

“If you look beyond last week [against Villa] I think we have been improving steadily,” he said. “You can see the confidence in the team. If you lose like we did last week and then you come back to Anfield and play like we did today, it shows the courage of the players.

“I thought they were fantastic and they have been improving every week. If we keep making the progress that we have, then it should be a really exciting second half to the season for us.

“We have got four games in quick succession, so we’ll recover the players well and make sure they are right because it is a great opportunity to pick up points and keep moving forward.”

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