LONDON, May 11- Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers complained that opposition midfielder Cesc Fabregas “should have been sent off” for an ugly challenge on Raheem Sterling during his side’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea.
There was less than a minute on the clock at Stamford Bridge on Sunday when Fabregas caught Sterling on the ankle with a high, sliding challenge, for which he was booked by referee Andre Marriner.
The final score, after John Terry’s early header was cancelled out by Steven Gerrard’s headed goal, all but extinguished Liverpool’s Champions League hopes.
But Rodgers felt the game might have panned out differently had Fabregas — who set up Terry’s opener — been sent for an early bath.
“Fabregas should have been sent off — out of control, diving, stretching,” said the Northern Irishman, whose side trail fourth-place Manchester United by six points with two games to play.
“It was early in the game, but it doesn’t matter. It was a bad challenge and he deserved a red card for that.”
While Liverpool’s thoughts will now turn to Saturday’s home game with Crystal Palace, when Gerrard will play at Anfield for the final time, Rodgers called on the club’s owners Fenway Sports Group to support attempts to improve the squad during the close season.
Asked if finishing outside the Champions League places would make it harder for Liverpool to attract new players to the club, he replied: “It would have been whether we were in it or not.
“It was always going to be difficult. We know the areas where we need to strengthen the squad, and hopefully we can do that.
“If we want to make the next step, we need to find the right acquisitions in the summer.”
Chelsea had already secured the title by beating Palace the previous weekend and manager Jose Mourinho looked to the future against Liverpool by awarding a full debut to 19-year-old midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
The tall, elegant academy graduate completed all 27 of the passes he attempted and Mourinho believes a bright future beckons for him.
“He’s going to be a Chelsea player, that’s no doubt,” the Portuguese told his post-match press conference. “We have other kids that I also believe can perfectly do it.
“Good work at academy level, good cooperation with us when the players go into the zone where they are almost there, but not quite there, so hopefully we have more in the future.”
– Gerrard ovation –
Mourinho pledged to blood more young players at West Bromwich Albion this weekend — name-checking Nathan Ake and Izzy Brown, who joined the club from West Brom — but said he would select a strong team for the final game of the season at home to relegation-threatened Sunderland.
He also said that goalkeeper Petr Cech would start at The Hawthorns, having missed the game against Liverpool due to a minor injury, and reiterated his desire to keep the 32-year-old Czech at the club.
Another young player, French centre-back Kurt Zouma, was forced off by injury after 34 minutes and Mourinho revealed that he had hurt his knee.
Following Mourinho’s example, Chelsea’s fans granted Gerrard a standing ovation when he left the field in the 79th minute.
The former England captain was goaded throughout the game, with Chelsea’s supporters eager to remind him of his costly slip from the teams’ encounter at Anfield last season.
Gerrard complained in a television interview afterwards that he had been “slaughtered”, but Mourinho felt the jeers were underpinned by affection.
“The negative song only shows respect. Nothing else than respect,” he said.
“It’s like a negative song to a dear enemy. The standing applause was special. Stamford Bridge was special.
“Steve gets that for almost two decades, every week when he plays at Anfield.
“But to get that in an away stadium is a fantastic way for him to feel that probably every club, every stadium in this country respects him a lot.”