LIVERPOOL manager Roy Hodgson admits some players will have to work hard to repair their damaged reputations after being culpable in the team’s embarrassing Carling Cup exit on Wednesday night.
There will be no knee-jerk reaction, however, and all those who featured in the defeat to Northampton at Anfield will get a chance to redeem themselves. The Reds, record seven-time winners of the competition in its various guises, crashed out on penalties to the League Two side.
It was the first time the Merseysiders had lost to a fourth-tier team in the League Cup and was their worst result since an FA Cup third-round defeat against non-league Worcester City in 1959. Hodgson made 11 changes from the weekend’s reverse at Manchester United and had he put out a full reserve side then the result could have been anticipated.
But seven of the starting line-up – Milan Jovanovic, David Ngog, Lucas Leiva, Ryan Babel, Daniel Agger, Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Brad Jones – were on the bench at Old Trafford. Most are full internationals and were expected to get the job done but proved to be a major disappointment.
The likes of Babel and Lucas have dropped down the pecking order at Anfield but failed to seize the opportunity to remind Hodgson of their worth to the first team.
“I honestly believed with the players we had on the field, players with international and Premier League experience, we would be good enough to win the game,” said the Reds boss.
“They have to do a lot of work to get themselves back into favour and I will learn an awful lot from this defeat about an awful lot of people. It is early doors for some of them – some are still quite young and were making their debuts – but I don’t want to be drawn into making a bold statement.
“A lot of players will be bitterly disappointed they didn’t take the chance they were given but they’ll get other chances I’m sure. The players themselves will be looking to take responsibility for their individual performances. Those that come to the conclusion ‘I could have done a bit more’ I am sure will look in the mirror and take responsibility for that”.
The damage the result will do to fragile confidence at Anfield will only be apparent over time but it could not have come at a worse moment. With only five points from as many Barclays Premier League matches Liverpool sit 16th in the table.
A good run in the Carling Cup was seen as a way to boost morale and represented a decent chance of winning a trophy, especially with the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Everton having gone out. Now, realistically, the Reds are looking at the FA Cup and Europa League, in which they have won their first five matches, to bring home some silverware.
But the priority remains regaining Champions League status and Hodgson will bring back his big names for tomorrow’s visit of Sunderland. “It is a tough period to live and work through but we will survive it and we will get better,” said the manager. Results colour everything. You get a bad result and everyone has played badly, everything was wrong.
“There are going to be lots of other games this season where people will be expecting us to win and we don’t and there will be games where people maybe don’t expect us to do very well and we do well – that is the nature of football. There are negative headlines after the Northampton game but let’s hope on Saturday we can come out and give a good performance and put all those behind us.”
Northampton manager Ian Sampson believed the performance showed lower-league opposition could compete against the high-flyers.
“It is a bit of a myth that League Two teams are kick-and-rush and play to a big man up front,” he said.
“We are certainly not that. We played a 5ft 8in centre-forward and a 5ft 5in midget just off him so we had to pass the ball.
“That is the gulf between the two clubs and it is a massive plus for my team.”
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