Final Score: Liverpool 1, Southampton 0
LIVERPOOL manager Brendan Rodgers believes some of his out-of-favour players could learn a lot from the example set by Lucas Leiva.
The Brazil midfielder seamlessly slotted back into the team for the 1-0 victory over Southampton in his first appearance for three months after a thigh strain.
His performance underlined just how important he is to the side and highlighted how much he has grown into a key figure after a difficult start to life at Anfield.
Lucas was signed by former boss Rafael Benitez from Gremio for £5m in 2007, but despite enjoying the support of the manager fans quickly turned on the then 20-yearold, criticism which left him distraught at times.
Rodgers believes the likes of Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson, big-money signings who have failed to impress in their first 16 months, could learn much from the Brazilian.
‘‘I think he is a wonderful example,’’ said the Northern Irishman after Daniel Agger headed in Glen Johnson’s cross for his first goal of the season at the end of a dominant first half.
‘‘I know it was difficult for him as I have spoken to him at length about when he was sat in tears sometimes in the changing room.
‘‘But what you have to have is that inner belief and the support around you.
‘‘I am sure in those early stages he would have had that and it allowed him to continue to fight and his own personality has seen him win through and now he is very important.
‘‘It will be the same for the other guys. Everyone gets the opportunity and I would like to give the players the hope they can succeed.
‘‘It might not have been so easy for some players but everyone is important to me and they all have a part to play.’’ Lucas’ reappearance, after what he described as the worst year of his life after only 74 minutes of Barclays Premier League action following knee surgery 12 months ago, gave Liverpool a whole new dynamic.
His anchor role in front of the back four allowed midfield partners Steven Gerrard and Joe Allen, as well as fullbacks Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique, to push forward more and it led to one-way traffic in the first half.
In the 14 attempts in the opening 45 minutes Jonjo Shelvey smashed a shot back off the inside of a post while Luis Suarez crashed a freekick against the crossbar, which led to the goal.
Lucas is hoping for a fresh start after dismissing his two Premier League appearances, and two in Europa League qualifiers.
‘‘I didn’t count the other comeback because it was so short,’’ said the 25-year-old.
‘‘I was really looking forward to the game and the feeling against Southampton was the same as my first match for Gremio.
‘‘I played more minutes (88) than people were expecting and now it is just a question of games and training sessions, that is the only way I will get to the level I was.
‘‘I think it was really positive, especially as it is a year since my first injury.”