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Monday, 30 July 2012

Liverpool FC manager Brendan Rodgers hails tour of North America as ideal preparation for the new campaign


BRENDAN RODGERS has hailed Liverpool’s tour of North America as the ideal preparation for the new campaign.
The Reds arrived back home yesterday with the manager expressing his delight at what had been achieved during their fortnight’s stay across the Atlantic.
Saturday’s low-key goalless draw with Tottenham in Baltimore followed a 1-1 draw with Toronto in Canada and a 2-1 defeat to Roma in Boston.
With so many star names returning late due to the Euros and others away on Olympic duty, pre-season hasn’t been straightforward for Rodgers.
However, he’s convinced the intense physical and tactical work carried out in the stifling heat will pay dividends over the coming months.
“It’s been really beneficial and the players have been brilliant to work with,” said Rodgers.
“I’m really satisfied with how they’ve coped with what’s been asked of them.
“We wanted to improve our fitness and implement technical ideas and we’ve seen all of that.
“I thought the concentration and condition of the players against Tottenham was fantastic.
“To keep that level of organisation and shape in 35 degrees plus was great.
“I have seen a real development in the team from the first game up until now and we’ll continue to work on getting our match sharpness.
“There are areas where we need to improve but I’m really satisfied with where we’re at. It’s going to take time but I’ve got a lot of very talented and gifted players here who can take us forward.
“Every day they’ve come in looking to improve and that’s all I ask for as a coach. The consequence of that will hopefully be positive results.”
The reception Liverpool received in all three cities will certainly live long in the memory. It was their first visit to the continent since 2004 but you can guarantee they won’t leave it as long next time.
Commercially, it was a huge success. A combined total of more than 110,000 fans watched the friendlies as the tour showcased the club’s enduring global appeal.
The host of community events and player public appearances will have helped add to the Reds’ army of admirers.
“It’s incredible how people have come from all over the world to watch these games,” Rodgers said.
“It’s been like playing three home games for us and we’re very grateful for that.
“It was important for us to bring the club to our worldwide fan base.”
Reds fans vastly outnumbered their Spurs counterparts among the 42,723-strong crowd at the stunning M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday.
However, the energy-sapping heat coupled with a tricky playing surface contributed to a largely dull encounter played with little tempo.
It was a measure of just how little happened in 90 minutes that Charlie Adam’s first-half foul on Gareth Bale was such a talking point.
Of course the pair have previous with Adam having put the winger on the sidelines for three months with ankle ligament damage after a reckless tackle playing for Blackpool in May 2011.
Adam had no chance of winning the ball when he cynically hacked Bale down in the 18th minute and was lucky not to be booked but it was hardly X-rated.
“I think it is a very nasty challenge from Charlie,” claimed Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas.
“I think he should go to the player to say sorry. If he (Bale) escapes hospital it is because he is very lucky.”
Bale played on until the interval but left the stadium wearing a protective boot on his left ankle, complaining bitterly about Adam’s habit of kicking lumps out of him.
Of more concern to Rodgers will have been Adam’s seeming inability to keep possession. The Scot made far too many careless errors and there are question marks over whether he has the mobility to fit into the new boss’ system.
Prior to that flashpoint Joe Cole and Jonjo Shelvey had both forced comfortable saves from ex-Reds keeper Brad Friedel.
Young striker Adam Morgan, who scored against Toronto a week earlier, worked tirelessly up front and after breaking clear he saw his low drive pushed behind.
As the pace of the game slowed, Spurs rallied and should have broken the deadlock just before the break.
Firstly, Aaron Lennon latched on to Bale’s cross at the back post and fired against the upright. Then former Reds transfer target Gylfi Sigurdsson saw his header kept out by Brad Jones.
In the second half both sides made wholesale changes with Rodgers ultimately using 23 players.
Having made his pre-season bow in the first half, Stewart Downing was among those to make way at the break with fellow England international Jordan Henderson then getting 45 minutes under his belt.
The biggest cheer of the afternoon arrived just past the hour mark when skipper Steven Gerrard was introduced along with new striker Fabio Borini.
The £11million signing from Roma, playing in an advanced left sided role in Rodgers’ 4-3-3, had one sight of goal but couldn’t hit the target with his volley.
One of the major positives from the tour was undoubtedly the sight of Lucas Leiva back pulling the strings in midfield after his lengthy absence and the Brazilian took another step forward on Saturday.
Briefly, it looked like Andy Carroll would be the only Liverpool substitute not to get on but with 20 minutes to go he got the call.
As the contest petered out into a stalemate, the big frontman, whose future remains uncertain with the Reds considering bids for his services, had little chance to impress.
“Both teams put on a very good spectacle,” insisted Rodgers.
“When you have two teams who are tactically well organised and have top players, they’re always going to be tight games.
“You can either sit back in the heat or you can be uncomfortable because success hurts, and for me the players hurt. The only thing that let us down was that final ball.”
The focus now turns to Thursday’s first competitive game of Rodgers’ reign – the Europa League third qualifying round first leg tie in Belarus against FC Gomel.
“We won’t be at the optimum level of our fitness but we can’t complain,” the boss added.
“That’s the cards we’ve been dealt and we’ve just got to get on with it.
“We’ve had two weeks of really tough training, lots of double sessions and three games so the players will be at a good level.”

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