BR: Downing deserves spotlight
Brendan Rodgers told Stewart Downing to savour the moment after he hit Liverpool's goal in the 1-0 Europa League win over Anzhi Makhachkala.
Downing - moved from the wing to full-back for the second half - cut in from the left flank in the 53rd minute to crack home a shot from outside the box.
It secured a 1-0 victory that moved the Reds to the top of Group A, and at the final whistle Rodgers urged the 28-year-old England international, who has struggled to make an impact since joining Liverpool in 2011, to go and soak up the applause of the home crowd.
Rodgers said: "It has been difficult for Stewart since he has been here, and it was just something to help his confidence.
"I think the Kop recognised that it was a wonderful goal at the end and if you can get a round of applause from them, that would mean a lot to anyone - a player, manager, coach, whatever.
"You saw how they reacted accordingly. They gave him a great round of applause and that will hopefully do him good going forward.
"His commitment tonight was excellent. He had to play in a different position in the second half, but he has got the quality to do that."
Liverpool deserved the win, putting big-spending Russian outfit Anzhi - who are overseen by ex-Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink and had former Inter Milan and Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o up front - in the shade for much of the contest and looking increasingly threatening as it went on.
Reflecting on the performance, which yielded a third straight clean sheet in all competitions, Rodgers said: "Anzhi have a terrific group of players - they have invested heavily in it and they have a top manager.
"So to get a win and keep another clean sheet was excellent, and I thought we deserved it.
"I thought our intent in the game was good. We wanted to go forward, and particularly in the second half, we stepped it up and did very well.
"And it was a wonderful strike by Stewart - a great goal, and a good one to win the game."
Rodgers fielded a strong side including the likes of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez, resisting the temptation to rest players ahead of Sunday's Barclays Premier League derby at Everton and making only three changes from the win over Reading on Saturday.
Regarding his selection, Rodgers said: "For us, it is about taking it one game at a time.
"Our squad is not overly big, but we were at home and the condition of the players physically is very good. So I had no concerns about that.
"The work-rate in training and the games has been fantastic. We will recover well after a very good performance and result, and now we are all really looking forward to Sunday."
Anzhi had led the group but now drop to second with four points, the same amount as third-placed Udinese - beaten by Young Boys on Thursday night - and two behind Liverpool after three rounds of games.
As well as Eto'o, the nouveaux riche club have several other notable names in their squad, including Lassana Diarra - who missed out at Anfield through injury - Yuri Zhirkov and Christopher Samba.
Quotes from Anzhi's team director Roberto Carlos on Thursday suggested they could be looking to add Manchester United's Wayne Rooney to that list and asked about that this evening, Hiddink said: "He (Carlos) does very well to express his ideas.
"He hasn't said it to me so far! It is nice sometimes to talk out of the blue without any reality.
"We want star players, but as I explained before the game, we also do not want to just make investments for (the sake of making) investments.
"It must be good, and of course Rooney is very good, but it must be realistically achievable as well.
"We are not just looking for a team of big names - we want a good balance. I don't think the club will do foolish things.
"But I am not undervaluing Wayne Rooney, because I respect him very much."