at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Liverpool – Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers sent his congratulations to champions Manchester City but vowed his side will make an even stronger challenge for the Premier League title next season.
Despite their 2-1 win over Newcastle at Anfield on Sunday, second placed Liverpool were unable to celebrate a first league crown in 24 years as City beat West Ham 2-0 to finish two points clear at the top.
But after improving from seventh place last season to genuine title contenders this term, Rodgers believes there should be nothing but pride and optimism surging around Anfield.
“Congratulations to Manchester City. It's the most competitive league in football and they are the champions,” Rodgers said.
“But my over-riding feeling is one of sheer pride in our players. We finished the season winning 12 out of 14 games, drawing one and losing one, which shows an incredible level of quality and consistency over that period.
“People have looked at us and asked 'have we coped with the pressure?' I think 12 wins out of 14 shows that we clearly have.
“We would have preferred to have finished top but to finish just behind City is a mark of the progress we have made this season.
“It's been a wonderful adventure for us. We have scored 100 goals which is a remarkable achievement. We know the areas we need to improve on and we will be better.”
After trailing to an own-goal from Martin Skrtel at half-time, Liverpool raised themselves after the break to secure a 16th home win of the season with goals from Daniel Agger and Daniel Sturridge in the space of two minutes, both created by Steven Gerrard free-kicks.
Shola Ameobi's prolonged protests earned him two yellow cards and Newcastle ended the game, which manager Alan Pardew felt referee Phil Dowd could have managed better in the second half, with nine men following a red card for substitute Paul Dummett for a foul on Luis Suarez.
“I said at half-time we needed to put that 45 minutes behind us. I said we can't finish the season like this,” Rodgers added.
It has been a remarkable season and it would have been sad for us and the supporters to go out with a whimper.
“The players showed great character to get on the front foot and we ended up with a victory which gives us 16 wins out of 19 at home, which is fantastic for a group of players who just two years ago struggled to get home wins.”
Rodgers is already turning his attention to next season and he expects an even stronger showing from Liverpool in 2014-15.
“We have got back to where the club should be,” he said. “It's been a wonderful campaign for our growth and development.
“It's been incredible to see the supporters and to see the power of the club and the institution that is Liverpool.
“I think we have made them dream and that's our job to do that and the great thing is we will improve.
“We know the areas we need to improve on and we will be better. We will come back mentally and technically ready for next season. It's a young group and we will add more players to be ready to fight again.”
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, once again barracked by his club's unhappy supporters, is in a far less comfortable position after seven defeats in eight games to end the season.
He faces a meeting with club owner Mike Ashley to discuss his future and said: “I need to come back better and stronger and I will do.
“The club needs to recruit well and we have to give something for the fans to hang onto.” – Sapa-AFP