LIVERPOOL boss Brendan Rodgers was quick to praise Jonjo Shelvey following his performance in the Reds’ 3-2 victory over West Ham at Upton Park yesterday.
Much had been made of the fact Liverpool were without an experienced recognised striker in their squad due to Luis Suarez’s one-match ban but Rodgers played Shelvey in a more attacking role.
Former West Ham defender Glen Johnson opened the scoring before a Mark Noble penalty and a Steven Gerrard own goal gave the home side a half-time lead.
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Joe Cole, another ex-West Ham player, levelled the scores before Shelvey claimed the winning goal – although the ball appeared to loop over West Ham goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen off the foot of team-mate James Collins.
After the match, which saw Liverpool move ahead of West Ham on goal difference, Rodgers reserved praise for the former Charlton youngster.
“(He was) outstanding. But you see there are two different ways in which you can play the number nine role,’’ he said.
‘‘In this country it is always a very traditional target man, a clear number nine. Give credit to Carlton Cole today, I know him form my time at Chelsea, he is a real handful and was outstanding today.
‘‘But you see young Jonjo Shelvey at 20 years of age playing the number nine role in a different way - dropping into midfield and combining with the midfield players to make the fourth man, being a threat when he is in around the box, showing great feet and I thought he was outstanding today the kid.
‘‘It was great credit to him because there was a lot of pressure on him because people have been trying to compare him to Luis Suarez but he has been terrific in my time here, he is only 20 and has a big future ahead of him.’’ Rodgers also said there was never any panic from within the club when Suarez was booked for the fifth time last weekend, ruling him out of the game at West Ham.
“For us there was no drama,’’ he said.
“My focus when I came in was about the collective. We must share the ball, we must share the goals and we must share the workload – we are not asking anyone to do anything more than anyone else.
“I had great belief in the players that we could score goals and create goals because we have done it all season but we just haven’t been clinical enough and had the good fortune at times to wrack up more goals.
“But I think you have seen today, even without Luis, the quality in the team but equally the fight in the team and that was pleasing.’’ West Ham manager Sam Allardyce felt the loss of influential midfielder Mohamed Diame to a hamstring injury, which could see him miss up to 12 weeks, could have been a factor in Liverpool’s comeback.
Allardyce also said the defeat was made all the worse by the knowledge one of his side’s top performers faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
“Mo (Diame) going off was obviously a blow to the creative side of our game. He was in front of every or most of the attacks we built so that was a blow,’’ he said.
“We have got to take it on the chin and I think we did the best we could and played as well as we could and we are disappointed that we haven’t got anything from it.
“It is disappointing to lose, but it is even more disappointing when your most creative player leaves the field with what looks like a serious injury on top of all the injuries we have got at the moment – so today has been obviously more disappointing because we have lost Mo as well as losing.’’ Allardyce felt his side were on top for the majority of the first half and believed the Hammers could weather Liverpool’s attacking storm before scoring a decisive third goal of their own.
“The way we finished the last 30-35 minutes of the first half, unfortunately we didn’t get to that tempo and that level of quality and started to sit a little too deep,’’ he said.
“But I thought we had seen that out and were going to come good at the end like we normally do and maybe they would over-extend themselves and we could hit them on the break and get the third.
“To lose the second goal was a bit of a sickener for us but I thought ’see it out today lads and if it is not to be let’s get the draw and we move on’.
“But then to lose it to a freaky own goal from ‘Ginge’ (Collins) is a little hard to take at the minute.”