This has been an uncomfortable week on Merseyside after the England forward’s ill-advised interview only heightened speculation over his future. Sterling told the BBC that he turned down a new £100,000-a-week deal but insisted he was not a “money-grabbing 20-year-old”, while also admitting that links to Saturday’s opponents Arsenal were “quite flattering”. “There was no change in him,” he said of Sterling. “I thought he was excellent today, our best player. “He was aggressive in his running, pressed the ball well, won the penalty and was very direct and strong, so I thought he was excellent today.” Rodgers was peppered with questions about Sterling in the post-match press conference, during which he said “a big part of this is actually nothing to do with him”. The Liverpool manager was coy when asked about outside influences destabilising both club and player, but was forthright when it came to the forward’s future. “At 20 years of age – and just turned 20 in December – there is still a long way for him to go,” said Rodgers, who confirmed Mario Balotelli deemed himself unfit to travel after receiving a knock in training. “He has got a lot of potential. I believe that potential he can really develop over these next few years at Liverpool. “Of course, it will be the job of, in particular, his advisors to look at maybe what possibilities might be beyond that. “The only thing I will say is that he has two-and-a-half years left, he won’t be going anywhere in the summer. That’s for sure. “They will sit down again with the club and his representatives to hopefully find the solution in the summer.” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was also asked about Sterling in the post-match press conference, but preferred to focus on his side’s fine display. Impressive goals from Hector Bellerin, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in quick succession gave the hosts a comfortable half-time lead. Jordan Henderson’s penalty reduced the deficit, but Olivier Giroud added extra gloss in this seventh straight league win after Emre Can saw red. “You always have imperfections in any game but I feel we started with a great intensity, which is what we wanted to put them under pressure,” Wenger said “We created some early chances after and then when we relieved the pressure they had one or two chances. Liverpool are a good side going forwards and they always look dangerous. “We had a killing instinct and took advantage of our strong moments in the first half. “In fairness we played at a good pace and had some good combination game in the final third. “The second half was more down to, can we maintain the discipline, intensity and not allow them to come back early? We did that. “We had many chances on the break that I’ve seen again but in the end it was 4-1 which is very convincing in a very important game.” Rodgers spoke to the forward about the week’s events yet still started him at the Emirates Stadium, where the Gunners all but ended Liverpool’s hopes of a top-four finish with a comfortable 4-1 win. “The reaction and commitment of the players has been first class since (the defeat to Crystal Palace in November),” Rodgers said. “Really, up until the Manchester United game we were the form team and playing very, very well. “But we have been dealt two big blows in these last two games, we haven’t performed how we would like and that has ultimately cost us in terms of the result. “I very much doubt we will be in the top four now come the end of the season. There’s too much ground to make up – that’s the realistic view from me. “Now, we must really focus on the FA Cup and that has got to be very, very important for us.” Liverpool take on Blackburn in a replay of their FA Cup quarter-final on Wednesday, when talk about Sterling will no doubt still be dominating the headlines. Rodgers is only interested on what is happening with the forward on the field, though, and wants another impressive performance from the England international at Ewood Park. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers accepts Champions League football is unlikely to return to Anfield next season, but insisted once again that contract rebel Raheem Sterling will do. Press Association
Related Stories No. 17 Syracuse buries N.C. State with 12 3s in 80-61 win to advance to ACC tournament semifinalsTaylor Ford’s status uncertain heading into ACC tournament semifinal against No. 2 seed LouisvilleGallery: Syracuse advances to ACC tournament semifinals with win over N.C. State “We made fun of her a little bit,” SU guard Brittney Sykes said. “We said she did a Tony Parker floater. And it was an and-one. They fouled her, but she finished it.”Fondren didn’t just finish the shot. She finished the game.With less than five minutes left, she tipped Wolfpack forward Chelsea Nelson’s pass so Sykes could pick it up and convert on an easy layup. Less than a minute later, she stopped N.C. State guard Dominque Wilson at half court and deflected her pass to Sykes. The eventual lay in gave the Orange a 16-point lead.Her attempt at three makes in a row bounced off the back iron — her only miss of the quarter.“She knew what we needed,” Peterson said.” Time and score. And she made the plays happen when we needed them.”When SU needed to milk the clock near the end of the game, Fondren called for screens and dished out passes.She hit a layup as the shot clock expired. She found a wide-open Briana Day in the lane that resulted in an open shot that Day missed.“Alexis (Peterson) and Bri (Butler) were out, so I felt like I had to do more,” Fondren said.Fondren entered the game leading the team in fouls and turnovers, but finished the contest with just one tally in each category.As the final seconds of the game ticked off the clock, Fondren dribbled over half court and smacked hands with Hillsman while play was still going on. He trusted the game, SU’s conference tournament hopes and future seeding in the NCAA tournament in her hands.She didn’t disappoint.“What can you say about her?” Hillsman said. “She was amazing.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on March 5, 2016 at 12:36 am Contact Jon: [email protected] | @jmettus Evan Jenkins | Staff Photographer GREENSBORO, N.C. – Alexis Peterson jumped up and down on the bench waving her arms and yelling directions to her teammates, but there wasn’t much she could do to help Syracuse’s offense. The fourth quarter was underway and the team’s starting point guard — and the game’s second-leading scorer at the time — was confined to the sideline with four fouls.Instead, it was backup point guard Cornelia Fondren dribbling down the court. Despite Peterson’s attempts to control the Orange offense, it was Fondren who had the ball in her hands and was directing the show.“Remember to be a solid point guard,” she thought to herself. “Get my teammates the ball. Pass it to them.”And though Fondren wanted to just be solid, with the game on the line, she was much more than that.She scored 10 points, grabbed six boards and picked up one steal in the fourth quarter to cement No. 3 seed Syracuse’s (24-6, 13-3 Atlantic Coast) 80-61 win over No. 6 seed N.C. State (20-11, 10-6) in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament on Friday night. With the Orange’s two leading scorers on the bench for much of the final quarter, Fondren took over the game and sent Syracuse into the semifinals to face No. 2 seed Louisville on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Corn was just huge,” head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “She handled the ball. She pressured the ball the entire game. What can you say about her? She was just amazing.”Fondren ended the third quarter with a 3-pointer at the buzzer that hit the bottom of the backboard and left her shrugging her shoulders and throwing her hands in the air at Hillsman. But she started off the fourth on a much better note.She hopped in the lane on a drive in the first possession, creating enough space in front of N.C. State’s Miah Spencer to sink the left-handed layup.After a Brianna Day block, Fondren banked in a right-handed floater while fighting off a defender. It was fourth point in a span of a minute, despite having just two in the previous three quarters.