Flanagan: Gerrard deserves title

first_img Press Association After Sunday’s significant 3-2 win over Manchester City the clearly emotional Reds captain was at the centre of a team huddle dishing out words of advice to his team-mates. Gerrard, who is more desperate than most to claim a championship winners’ medal as it is the only honour missing from his trophy cabinet, effectively told the players they had to forget the result and turn their focus to struggling Norwich at Carrow Road next weekend. Liverpool defender Jon Flanagan believes no one deserves a league title more than captain Steven Gerrard. The England skipper is more than just a leader, he is an institution at the club and his determination to see through the job of ending a 24-year wait for a title in their final four games has been imprinted on his team-mates. “It is phenomenal. He has carried this club for years and he deserves this,” said young defender Flanagan. “I think all the lads are doing it for themselves but for also for Stevie as well.” Liverpool produced their trademark fast start at home and were 2-0 inside 26 minutes courtesy of Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel and, although they were pegged back after the break through David Silva and a Glen Johnson own goal, Philippe Coutinho struck the winner. While no one at Anfield is getting ahead of themselves, Flanagan believes the performance and result against City, now seven points behind them at the sharp end of the table, has proved they have the nerve to successfully negotiate the final month of the season. “They are a great side and we have sent a message out – it was a great performance and a great three points,” he added. “There are always nerves going into such a big game in the title race but as soon as the game is on you focus on that. “We knew they were going to come out strongly (in the second half) and there was a bit of sloppy defending for their two goals but we still showed our spirit and finally got the third goal. “We can believe now. All the fans are believing we can do it now and we said in the huddle we’ll go again next week as we’ve done nothing yet and that result has gone now. “We have to stay focused and go again at Norwich away, we have to keep going right until the end.” The two downsides to the victory were the very late red card shown to midfielder Jordan Henderson for his studs-up tackle on Pablo Zabaleta, which will rule him out for three matches, and the hamstring problem sustained by Daniel Sturridge, who left the ground limping heavily. “Sturridge felt tightness in his hamstring so we will see how that is in the next couple of days,” said manager Brendan Rodgers. “The only sour point to the game is Henderson’s red card. “He has just had a touch late on in the game, probably through tiredness, but he actually touches the ball as he stretches for it. “I felt that was a bit harsh and it is unfortunate as he has been brilliant for us.” Rodgers displayed his tactical flexibility again as, with the game being taken away from his side at 2-2, he made a switch which paid off. “Second half you expect City to come back and the first goal gave them momentum and we were unfortunate to concede the second,” he said. “I felt they started to get more energy so we changed from the diamond to 4-3-3 to open up the game a bit when we had the ball but also to protect the sides when we were defending and that allowed us to get some control back.” Neither Luis Suarez nor Sturridge came anywhere close to their best but the efforts of others meant they were not missed. “We don’t demand goals from the strikers, we just demand they give their best and some days they have off days but they are working for the cause, which is most important,” added the Reds boss. “Raheem Sterling’s goal was brilliant, showing great strength and then making the yard (of space) against top players and score with that composure is what we want.” last_img read more

Football closes semester with spring game

first_imgThe football team reached the culmination of the spring ball portion of its offseason this Saturday when it played its annual Spring Game. In front of a reported 14,781 fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Trojans participated in a situationally focused scrimmage that put the team in game-specific scenarios. The spring game opened up with a 7-on-7 pass-rush drill, which was followed by a run-pass option period, a “backed-up” offensive situation, an “open field, move the ball” period and a red zone drill between the offense and defense. There was no score kept for the game. USC ran a total of 62 offensive plays Saturday, combining the situational and live-play sequences. The Trojans also gave redshirt freshman kicker Michael Brown the opportunity to kick seven field goal attempts (he converted on five of them, including a 50-yarder). On the day, redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold completed four of six passing attempts for a total of 58 yards. During the offense’s “backed up” period, Darnold made an impressive play, escaping the pocket, rolling out to his right before connecting with redshirt freshman receiver Velus Jones for 21 yards down the sideline. “Last year [in the spring], I know that I was competing with Max [Browne] for the starting sport, and that made me a whole lot better,” Darnold said. “This year though, I’ve needed to do a better job of competing with myself to make myself better. It’s something I know I can do, and I need to get better at [competing with myself]. That’s been the key takeaway from this spring.” Also throwing the ball for the Trojans were redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Fink and early enrollee Jack Sears. The two are currently locked in a battle for the team’s backup quarterback role, and both had the opportunity to lead the offense through game-specific situations. Fink finished the day with 47 passing yards total, connecting on five of nine pass attempts. On the first play of the red zone period, Fink connected with redshirt freshman receiver Tyler Vaughns for a 20-yard passing score. This was the only passing touchdown thrown by any quarterback. Sears completed three of seven pass attempts for 32 yards on Saturday. Throughout the spring game, Sears put his mobility on display. Rolling out to his right, Sears was able to escape pressure and connect with redshirt freshman receiver Jake Russell for 13 yards. “I thought that both [Fink and Sears] did a nice job,” head coach Clay Helton said. “I’m impressed with [Fink’s] overall spring. It was really neat to see [Sears] in this situation. I mean, he should be at prom right now and he’s at the Coliseum throwing the ball around, getting it to the right places.  Both kids did a nice job today of getting it to the right guy.”Expected to be the leading workhorse for this Trojans running back corps, junior Ronald Jones II carried the ball four times Saturday for a total of eight yards. The Trojans’ top performer out of the tailback slot was redshirt freshman running back Vavae Malepeai. Rushing for 36 yards on eight carries, Malepeai showed impressive vision in the open field Saturday, as he was able to break off several longer runs. Malepeai, who had his freshman season cut short due to a shoulder blade injury, had the longest rush of the day from a running back with 14 yards. Redshirt junior fullback Reuben Peters recorded the only rushing touchdown off of a 6-yard score. The Trojans’ leading receiver was redshirt freshman Tyler Vaughns, who finished the game with three receptions for 48 yards. Vaughns also had the only touchdown reception of the game, which was thrown by Fink.Another notable wideout for USC was sophomore Michael Pittman, who reeled in three catches for 30 receiving yards. Pittman and Vaughns both notched significant receptions during the “backed-up” period in which the Trojan offense was forced to operate deep in its own territory, starting from its own 2-yard line.Working with the first team defense on Saturday was freshman early enrollee defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu. With four tackles, including one for a loss, Tuipulotu was one of the bright spots for the USC defense throughout the game. Other Trojans with four tackles defensively included junior linebacker Cameron Smith and redshirt senior safety Matt Lopes.Sophomore defensive end Oluwole Betiku Jr. mirrored Tuipulotu’s defensive production, as he finished Saturday with four tackles, one resulting in a loss of yardage for the offense.The defense was able to put together a clean showing on Saturday, as they committed no penalties for the entirety of the spring game. The USC offense was called for three penalties during the game.“I was very pleasantly pleased with the defense,” Helton said. “How they performed, how they communicated. They just look like they’re playing incredibly fast right now. What I’ve really been impressed by is that, not just our ones, but our twos are looking very solid.”Members of the 2016-2017 men’s basketball team were honored during the game at the Coliseum for their recent 26-win season, the most in school history. Additionally, USC’s 2016 football team was presented with their Rose Bowl rings and members of the Trojans’ 2017 recruiting class were also in attendance and announced to fans. Following the conclusion of the spring game, several USC players and coaches remained at the Coliseum to meet with fans and sign autographs.last_img read more