Brendan Rodgers has claimed Sadio Mane won a “soft” penalty to decide a 2-1 victory for Liverpool in which he believes his Leicester side “deserved a point.”
Rodgers returned to Anfield on Saturday for the first time as a manager since his sacking from the Reds job in 2015, and did so with an in-form Foxes outfit.
The hosts were in control for the majority of the game, though, only for James Maddison’s 80th-minute strike to cancel out an excellent opener from Mane.
Liverpool had 18 shots on goal to Leicester’s two, but Rodgers’ told reporters after the game that he felt the points should have been shared, questioning the VAR’s role in deciding the penalty for James Milner‘s winner.
“Obviously, to concede a 95th-minute penalty was difficult to take, because I thought we deserved a point from the game,” he said.
“You come to the European champions and you’ve got to be resilient, deal with moments of pressure and show your own qualities, and I felt we did that.
“To come from a goal behind, and it looked in that second period, especially as the half wore on, that we could go on and win the game.
“I thought it was a very soft penalty, I don’t think it was a clear-and-obvious penalty, that’s for sure.
“But of course when the referee gives it, it’s probably hard for VAR to go against that.
“So it was disappointing, but very proud of the team and the personality that we showed, because it’s a top-class side that has so many qualities.
“To come here and be that competitive, it shows that we’re very much on the right path.”
Elaborating further on the penalty later in his press conference, Rodgers suggested Mane “made the most” of Marc Albrighton’s challenge.
“We’re in control of the situation, that stage of the game, [but] the modern strikers now are clever,” he continued.
“He’s had a touch and gone over, but I think if the referee didn’t give it I don’t think anyone would have said it was a clear-and-obvious penalty. But unfortunately it went against us.”
“I don’t think it was an overly bad challenge,” Rodgers countered.
“Mo Salah‘s coming inside in the speed he travels and Hamza’s coming back, there’s a clash of course. I’m not sure what it looks like, a dead leg or whatever.
“I’ve tried to look at it again on the images but the camera’s quite a way away, so you don’t get the right close-up of it.
“But I think [with] the emotion of the game at that time, of course, it might seem a little worse than it was.
“He was just getting himself back, Mo Salah comes across him and there’s a collision.
“He’s an honest boy, Hamza. He makes challenges and he’s aggressive. But I don’t think there was anything malicious in it at all.”
And Rodgers gave an insight into the post-match tussle between Ayoze Perez and a host of Liverpool players, insisting “it was nothing,” despite implicating Andy Robertson.
“According to the guys I think Andy Robertson, at the final whistle, celebrated and pushed him,” he explained.
“Which he probably didn’t expect, and he was obviously annoyed at that. That obviously leads to a melee, but it was nothing.”