Steven Gerrard still main man, says Brendan Rodgers
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insisted there was nothing sinister behind his decision to drop captain Steven Gerrard for their win over Stoke City.
The Reds clinched a 1-0 victory in their English Premier League clash at Anfield on Saturday thanks to a stooping header from right-back Glen Johnson five minutes from time.
Rodgers left 34-year-old midfielder Gerrard, who made his Liverpool debut 16 years ago to the day against Blackburn Rovers, on the bench against the Potters for all but the final 15 minutes of the match.
But the Reds boss insisted the rationale behind it was the need to manage the club talisman`s playing time and not anything else.
"Steven`s at the stage of his career where he`s not going to be playing in every game," Rodgers said.
"He obviously played in the last two against Crystal Palace and against Ludogorets. He put a huge amount into those games, and we have other players here who can do a job. Steven understands that.
"I wasn`t aware it was 16 years since his debut until I got into the changing room and saw the programme.
"I felt quite bad when I looked at the programme -- there was about 20 pictures in there of him!
"But Steven`s a player who is very much a team player, and a great guy and always plays a part."
Rodgers confirmed that talks with Gerrard`s representatives over a new contract are ongoing with the Liverpudlian`s current deal set to expire in June 2015.
And he also admitted that he would continue to discuss with Gerrard in which games he will rest and rotate the Liverpool skipper.
"Every player would love to play in every minute of every game," Rodgers explained.
"The reality is at this level, with how competitive it is, we can`t just be relying on Steven in every single game.
"He`s been brilliant in my time here and will continue to be. Between the two of us we talk and we look at when he can play and when he can`t.
"We need to look at each game, and position the players in the team who we think can get a result."Liverpool secured their first win of November, which eased some of the pressure on Rodgers, thanks to a close-range diving header from England defender Johnson late on.
Jordan Henderson`s high cross was met by the head of striker Rickie Lambert who saw his effort rebound off the crossbar into the goalmouth and Johnson stooped to head in.
Rodgers added: "The players deserved credit for that resilience and persistence. It was a hard-fought performance and I`m pleased with the clean sheet. Glen showed courage and bravery to get the goal.
"I`m equally happy with a 1-0. The moment we are in, I`m happy with that. We won against a team that don`t concede many goals."
Stoke boss Mark Hughes felt his side were worthy of point after defending stoically and causing the home side problems at the other end of the pitch, particularly in the second half.
He said: "We feel disappointed. Our record here over the years hasn`t been great.
"We haven`t won here since 1959, but Liverpool created very little in the first half and were quite comfortable.
"It was a little bit harsh on us to lose the game. I felt we deserved something."
Hughes singled out Bojan Krkic for particular praise after the former Barcelona midfield playmaker tested the Liverpool defence throughout the game.
"I thought Bojan was outstanding," Hughes added. "He hit the post, had an excellent shot at the end.
"I think everyone saw the quality he has, and he`s getting stronger. We`re really encouraged by what he`s producing.
"He`s enjoying the Premier League. We need to give him the ball more often because he has the ability to produce those moments of quality."