Brendan Rodgers refused to criticise Steven Gerrard despite his senseless dismissal in Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester United.
Gerrard ensured his final meeting against United would be remembered for all the wrong reasons as he was sent off just 43 seconds after his half-time introduction from the substitutes’ bench.
Already 1-0 down thanks to Juan Mata’s opener, Liverpool’s chances of a comeback receded when their captain stamped on Ander Herrera after the Spaniard had slid in for a tackle.
Liverpool went on to lose 2-1 but Rodgers would not condemn his skipper, choosing instead to praise him for saying sorry for the stamp afterwards.
The Liverpool boss said: “It is big of someone when they do get sent off to come out and apologise. He was probably frustrated watching us in the first half, we didn’t make a tackle. He was man enough to come out and apologise.
“I won’t criticise him. He has been brilliant since I came here. We will move on.”
The midfielder accepted full responsibility for the defeat, which leaves Liverpool five points behind United in the race for fourth.
“I need to accept it, the decision was right. I have let my team-mates and manager down today, even more importantly I let all the supporters down and I take full responsibility for my action,” Gerrard told Sky Sports.
“I tried to jump his tackle, I saw his studs and I reacted wrong. I’ve been in the game long enough to know when you do something like that, especially at the timing of the game, at half-time with 45 to play, a great opportunity to get back in the game. I take full responsibility for it.”
Liverpool had put themselves within touching distance of United after going on an unbeaten 13-match run that started after their 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford.
Rodgers is still sure Liverpool can qualify for the Champions League even though just eight matches remain.
“It is a big challenge but when I looked at the 10 games that were remaining, it was always going to be difficult to win all 10. We built in a loss and some draws,” he added.
“We hoped to win this game against a rival but it is still very much possible. There are five points between us and them.
“We need to recover and use this as a springboard as we did when we last played them (their last league defeat before this encounter).
“We are more than capable of winning the next game.”
United still have to play Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, but they look a different team to the one that struggled through the winter months.
“We beat them again with their own weapons and the pressure on the ball,” United boss Louis van Gaal said.
“Now the gap is five points ahead of Liverpool and six ahead of Tottenham and Southampton so the moment to win is one of the most important in my career.”