Brendan Rodgers tells Liverpool to build on opening wins
Liverpool: Brendan Rodgers has urged Liverpool to build on their perfect start to the season as they attempt to establish themselves as top four contenders.
Daniel Sturridge was the Reds` scorer for the second successive weekend with the winner against Aston Villa as they joined Chelsea as the second side to date to claim maximum points from their opening two matches.
Whether 1-0 victories over Villa and Stoke provide sufficient evidence to suggest Rodgers` team can be Champions League contenders this term remains to be seen.
Next weekend`s meeting with Manchester United should provide a better benchmark, yet after a sluggish start to last season which saw the Anfield club fail to win a match until 29 September, the signs are certainly pointing in the right direction.
This was the first time they have tasted victory in their opening two league games in five years and they have avoided defeat in their last 10 league games.
"The mentality of the group is to win together. That is important. We have to keep it going," said Rodgers.
"We didn`t have a good start at all last year. Since the turn of the year we`ve been getting better and better."
England international Sturridge made it eight strikes in his last seven Premier League appearances with a fine 21st-minute solo effort, capping an impressive first half from Liverpool.
He had Philippe Coutinho at least partially to thank after the Brazilian cleverly dummied Jose Enrique`s low cross, yet he still had much to do, jinking around two defenders and Brad Guzan, the goalkeeper, before firing into the roof of the net.
"Tactically we had to play differently, but I was delighted with the players," Rodgers added.
"Aston Villa have shown in their first couple of games the pace they have in the team and they play on the counter attack.
"In the first half we controlled the ball and the spaces well. In the second half, we had to control the zones, defend half a pitch and deny them the space to run into and obviously that means conceding a bit more of the ball.
"It was a terrific win for us. The first half we had good control of the game and scored an excellent goal and in the second half we just needed to defend a bit more deeply."
After their stunning opening day win at Arsenal and unfortunate defeat at Chelsea on Wednesday, this appeared one game too many for a jaded-looking Villa.
Paul Lambert`s side improved hugely after the interval and were left to rue a Gabriel Agbonlahor miss and a stunning Simon Mignolet save to deny Christian Benteke late on.
However, they have still done enough this past week to suggest they can avoid another relegation skirmish and Lambert admitted he was still satisfied with their start despite back-to-back losses.
"I knew it was going to be a big ask," Lambert said. "We have always been in the games. We just got beaten by one.
"I can`t be too critical of the lads because they have given everything. We`re a young side but the improvement is there for everyone to see.
"If someone said, `Would you take three points from these games?`, I would have taken it with the start we had."