Hillsborough proves ideal motivation for Liverpool’s title tilt

Words of campaigner Margaret Aspinall inspires Rodgers and side to vital victory

Brendan Rodgers has revealed that Hillsborough campaigner Margaret Aspinall inspired Liverpool to a 3-2 victory over Norwich, one which puts them five points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Moreover, with three games to play the Anfield side are on course for a first league title in 24 years. Liverpool had to show late resilience to overcome Neil Adams’s outfit as Norwich responded to going 2-0 down inside 11 minutes with a gutsy second-half display after the interval. The home side scored through Gary Hooper and Robert Snodgrass but could not find an equaliser, leaving Liverpool to record an 11th successive victory.

The title is now within sight for Rodgers and his men, with this result the perfect reaction to Chelsea’s 2-1 home defeat to Sunderland on Saturday. The top two meet at Anfield on Sunday with Liverpool knowing a draw is likely to be all they require to finish the season on top. A first domestic championship since 1990 would come at a poignant time given this year is the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy and having attended a memorial service on Tuesday for the 96 supporters who died.

Aspinall motivation
Rodgers felt it appropriate to quote Aspinall as a means of focusing his players on the task ahead. Aspinall's 18-year-old son, James, was one of the victims and she spoke at the service in her capacity as chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group.


“We had the memorial service this week and that was really touching,” said Rodgers. “So I decided to use words of Margaret Aspinall. We put them up on the wall. She talked about stress and how it can prove difficult for you but can also offer great determination to fight. Those were the words that we gave the players before the game. This is really one club at this moment and we will all fight to achieve the ultimate goal.”

That goal is the title. And Rodgers is keeping a level head, even going as far to speak about his delight that Liverpool can finish no lower than third and, therefore, are guaranteed Champions League football next season.

The manager was full of praise for another eye-catching attacking display by his side and the fact they have scored 96 goals this season. He was particularly delighted by the performance of Raheem Sterling, who scored Liverpool's opener goal after four minutes, set up Luis Suarez for the second soon afterwards and got their crucial third just after the hour mark.

Exceptional talent
"I think he is arguably the best young player in Europe," said Rodgers

. “I have been really pleased with his maturity, he puts an awful lot of time into his work.”

He added: “All my players are giving me everything . . . It is going to be a brilliant game next weekend with Chelsea coming to Anfield. The supporters will be right up for it, as will the players.”

Asked about Jose Mourinho’s sarcastic reaction to seeing his side lose to Sunderland, and record a first home league defeat under the Portuguese in 78 games across two spells, Rodgers said of his one-time mentor: “He will go again. He’s a world-class manager . . . we are only focusing on ourselves.”

For Norwich this was a fourth defeat in a row and their hopes of surviving the drop look bleak given they sit just two points above the relegation zone with games against Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal to come.

"We had to shake them up at half-time and I was delighted with the second-half performance," said Adams after his second game in charge of the side following the sacking of Chris Hughton.
(Guardian Service)