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Saturday May 10, 2014 MYT 5:32:02 PM
Saturday May 10, 2014 MYT 5:33:07 PM
Liverpool's Steven Gerrard (R) is greeted by manager Brendan Rodgers as he leaves the pitch following their English Premier League soccer match against Chelsea at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England April 27, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Staples/Files
(Reuters) - The Premier League title appears to have slipped through Liverpool's fingers but manager Brendan Rodgers is satisfied with the spirited campaign of a team he insists will return stronger next season.
The Reds exceeded expectations to come tantalisingly close to ending their agonising 24-year title wait but defeats by Chelsea and draw at Crystal Palace in their last two games have dealt body blow to their hopes.
They must now beat Newcastle United on Sunday and pray title favourite Manchester City lose at home to West Ham United.
Far from regretting how the title charge has rather fizzled out over the final stages, a satisfied Rodgers vowed his team would return stronger.
"This is only the beginning for us," the northern Irishman told the Liverpool Echo newspaper.
"This season isn't a one-off. I think there is an easy gauge on that. You only have to look at our progress.
"This will be arguably the best run at a title the club has had for 24 years. Steven Gerrard is 33 years of age and this is the closest he has got to winning it. This is his first real sample of a title run-in and he will be even better next season.
"Think of the experiences these players will have had. Just think what Raheem Sterling is going to be like, what Jon Flanagan is going to be like, Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen, Philippe Coutinho...
"These are all young players. We are going to improve. Of course, I would expect the other teams to spend and improve but we will get better as well."
Back in the Champions League for the first time since 2009, some fans fear Liverpool's relatively thin squad might be stretched next season but Rodgers was unperturbed.
"History shows you it can be difficult juggling the different competitions but being back in the Champions League is something we will relish.
"We have shown the significance of our development this season and we will be able to reinforce with quality in the summer. That will push us on again.
"The supporters have been allowed to dream this year and they will be able to continue doing that because we are going to get better."
His sunny optimism notwithstanding, Rodgers conceded feeling shattered after Liverpool squandered a three-goal advantage in Monday's draw at Selhurst Park.
"I probably felt the lowest I've ever felt in all my time working in football," the 41-year-old said.
"It was awful. You saw the emotion of the supporters after and it was pretty much the same in the dressing room.
"At 3-0, we were so comfortable but we lost our concentration and in the modern game momentum can change fast."
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty; Editing by John O'Brien)
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