LONDON: Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier admitted his struggling side had not deserved to beat Aston Villa after Saturday’s 1-1 draw continued their worst league run in over 50 years.
Houllier had described the home match as “massive” for the club, but Dion Dublin’s early second-half penalty cancelled out Michael Owen’s opener to deny Liverpool their first victory in 11 Premier League games.
“We did not deserve to win, a draw was a fair result,” Houllier told Sky Sports TV. “We had chances in the second half but I have to be honest, Villa gave us a good game.
“We were short of two things. One is confidence at times, the second is a lack of freshness.”
Liverpool’s hopes of lifting their first league title since 1990 have all but disappeared since mid-November, when they topped of the table.
But the Frenchman has never lost faith, insisting his side can regain momentum helped by the support of their fans.
“We are going through a difficult period,” he added. “We are struggling, but I very much liked the reaction of our fans when one of our players made a bad touch. They chanted his name and that is something special about this club.
“I said to the players we are in a very trustful environment, you have the support of everybody, we know we are going through a difficult time but at the same time you have the talent and the spirit to keep going.”
Southampton manager Gordon Strachan described his side’s 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough as “our best away performance of the season.”
The Saints moved to fifth spot, their highest ever position in the Premier League, but were denied all three points by a spirited Boro comeback. Goals in the last 17 minutes from Noel Whelan and Massimo Maccarone, with a controversial penalty, cancelled out James Beattie’s double for the visitors.
“It wasn’t a penalty and it was disappointing because we deserved three points. But we were magnificent today and we can still sleep well tonight,” said Strachan. “I keep repeating this but the honesty, integrity and professionalism of my players is fantastic.”
Middlesbrough boss Steve McClaren also praised his side for preserving their unbeaten home league record this season. “Credit to the players and credit to the players who came on and changed the game for us,” McClaren said.
“A lot of teams at 2-0 down would have given up. We showed today that we are never beaten.”
A contender for goal of the season came at Maine Road where Manchester City midfielder Niclas Jensen’s stunning effort in a 2-1 win over Leeds United left both managers searching for superlatives.
“A wonder goal,” said City’s Kevin Keegan after Jensen’s blistering volley five minutes after halftime from an amazing 50-metre pass by Nicolas Anelka.
“We lost to a miracle goal from Jensen,” added Leeds boss Terry Venables. “His technique was quite amazing.” – Reuters