Great Dane has proved critics wrong with his quality display
“YOU don’t need to worry about Daniel Agger. He’s going to be a top player for years to come.”
Jamie Carragher’s pre-match tribute to his central defensive partner was no hollow morale booster prior to their contest with Didier Drogba on Tuesday night.
It was a statement dripping in the same supreme confidence heard from manager and players since the first leg at Stamford Bridge, that any problem Agger had against the African would not be so noticeable at Anfield.
Lesser players could have crumbled after such a chastening experience, but the feeling within the club was always that Agger’s response would be his finest game for the club yet.
The prophecy was thrillingly accurate.
“Agger will learn from his experience against Drogba,” Benitez had said the day after the 1-0 loss in London.
“Drogba can cause problems for some of the best defenders in the world. Daniel will be an even better player every time he plays in games such as this.”
What Benitez, and Carragher, then added away from the tape recorder was eerily accurate.
“He’ll have an outstanding game in the second leg. I’m sure of this. He’s that type of character,” Benitez said.
While Liverpool fans saw the build-up to Joe Cole’s now meaningless winner in the first leg as a solitary blemish on an otherwise perfect season for the Dane, judges in his homeland were more harsh.
It seems the 22-year-old’s credentials to play at the highest level were questioned in Denmark, which prompted a swift response from his manager and team-mates, pulling the youngster aside to assure him he was blameless for the defeat.
Agger’s goalscoring performance this week underlined his class, as he saw the rematch with Drogba as a challenge to relish, not shirk.
Having overcome the most demanding professional week of his flourishing career, the Dane was quick to thank those who ensured his spirits were not affected after the first leg.
“Jamie Carragher is the best defender in the world, and not only this, he is the best teacher any young player can have,” said Agger.
“It’s impossible for me to describe the level of respect I have for him and the way he’s helped me in every game.
“When I think back to what happened in the first leg, I really don’t know what to feel about it. I really didn’t feel I played that badly. For some reason, some people decided to say I had a bad game.
“Didier Drogba is one of the best strikers in the world and one of the best I’ve ever played against.
“He’s one of many strong strikers in the Premiership which makes it such a tough league. It’s difficult to say he’s the very best, but he’s definitely one of them.
“I thought Drogba was outstanding in both games, but it’s just that everything in football is decided by the result and people never look at what really happened in the game afterwards.
“I saw playing against Drogba as a big challenge for me and that’s something I look forward to. He brings the best out of me.
“There are some journalists in Denmark who like to get together and write the same things, so if one person says something they all agree.
“That’s just the way it is, and to be quite honest I don’t give a damn about what they have to say.
“It’s just a big media circus sometimes although, in a strange way, the Danish media going against me this time made me more motivated because I’m the kind of person who can show it doesn’t matter what’s written.
“I’ll never be affected by that. I just don’t care what some writer thinks.”
The misconception of Agger in Denmark is in sharp contrast to his adopted home, where Agger is only narrowly behind Carragher in the eyes of those judging Liverpool’s player of the season.
Supporters would be bemused to hear of any criticism of the youngster who has made a seamless transition into the first team throughout the campaign.
“It’s strange for me because the reaction in Liverpool has been so different and positive,” he said.
“A lot of our players have had a fantastic season and our fans are so fair and want to be supportiveu.
“I’m proud of how all the players performed on Tuesday night. All of us worked very hard, and best of all we kept our concentration for 120 minutes and made no mistakes, which is very tough at this level against great players.”
If keeping Drogba out wasn’t enough, scoring the winning goal in 90 minutes which set up another famous win secured the Dane’s place at the top table of Liverpool’s legendary European contributors.
Usually, it’s the shy, quietly spoken Agger who is short of words.
On Tuesday night, it was his Danish critics who were silenced.
“It was a great feeling when I scored. I felt amazing,” he said. “I’ve never even been to a Champions League final as a spectator, but I know it’s a massive game and one I’m really looking forward to now.”
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