LONDON, England (AFP) — Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has backed teen star Raheem Sterling to become a fan favourite at Anfield after his dazzling show against champions Manchester City.
Sterling marked the first Premier League start of his career with a virtuoso performance in Sunday's 2-2 draw with City and the 17-year-old was rewarded with a glowing tribute from Rodgers.
After spending the last year watching Stewart Downing deliver a series of lacklustre displays on the wings for Liverpool, the arrival of the pacey Sterling was also greeted with delight on the Kop at Anfield.
Jamaica-born Sterling, who joined Liverpool from QPR two years ago, gave City defender Kolo Toure a torrid time and Rodgers claimed he never doubted the England youth international had what it takes to shine on the big stage.
"It was an easy decision. I said when I first came in, I wouldn't judge people on their status, on what they are or what they have done, but on what I see in front of me," Rodgers said.
"He is a young player who has just improved every single day since I came in here.
"He was a player that played on his own in the one v ones.
"And you look at him fighting for the team, his tactical understanding playing a really experienced player -- he was blocking the lines of the pass, he was pressing at the right time, he was coming back to block the lines inside.
"For a 17-year-old playing against the champions, I thought his performance was fantastic, but he has a long way to go because you have got to be consistent and that is something I'll have to keep a close eye on."
Liverpool are still looking for their first win of the season but morale at Anfield will be greatly enhanced after the Reds recovered from their woeful 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion to deliver a more vibrant display against City.
They deservedly twice led through Martin Skrtel and Luis Suarez, but defensive errors allowed Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez to equalise.
Liverpool's Spanish left-back Jose Enrique is confident there is much better to come from the Reds once they adapt to Rodgers' desire for a slick passing style.