Liverpool advance into the Europa League first round after a 2-1 win in Turkey over Trabzonspor (3-1 agg. win).
In horrendous conditions and without stars Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard who were left back home to rest, it was always going to be tough heading to a cauldron of support while holding on to a slender 1-0 first leg lead.
Things didn’t get off to the best of starts for the Reds as Trabzonspor quickly set about cutting the deficit and they succeeded only four minutes in through Teofilo ‘Teo’ Guttierez after he latched on to a miscued Colman effort from outside the box.
Stunned, the Reds couldn’t get a foothold in the match for the entire half as they constantly chased shadows and were unable to maintain possession for large periods of time.
It could have been worse for the travelling side as Trabzonspor captain Yattara lost Simon Poulsen in the box and got on the end of a free kick which he nodded wide from a glorious position.
Liverpool thought they had something to cheer about as Glen Johnson broke free on the right side of the box and put the ball in the net, only to be called back for offside.
After a lacklustre 45 minutes in Trabzon, the sides went in to the half at 1-0, and level on aggregate.
Roy Hodgson must of said something uplifting as the men in red came out with more energy and endeavor – not least highlighted by the ever- industrious Dirk Kuyt.
Liverpool survived another scare just minutes in, however, as Yilmaz was sent away in to the box after a defence splitting pass. His shot going just wide, but was called back for offside.
A frustrating evening thus far was compounded by a clear chance gone wide by David Ngog. Joe Cole drifting to the right of the box and teasing his defender before chipping a delicate ball in at the far post. Without a defender in sight, Ngog looked certain to score with the gal at his mercy but nodded wide.
The young Frenchman almost made amends just five minutes later as he took a Christian Poulsen pass down, weaved in and around three Trabzonspor defenders and opened up a chance for himself which he pulled just wide. It was a magnificent effort that deserved a goal.
The Reds continued to look for a goal with a more positive mindset as the claret blue fans got noisier and another half chance found it’s way to David Ngog. This time taking a Fabio Aurelio pass down with his chest, but as he wound up to shoot, defenders swarmed in and cleared the opportunity.
The home side continued to be a threat though, and Alanzinho was presented with a great chance after Yilmaz cut in from the right and danced across the box before laying off for his Brazilian teammate, which was blazed well over.
With the clock running down and extra time looming, Liverpool struck. Glen Johnson picking up the ball deep in his own half, exploiting space and linking up with Kuyt before the Dutchman played a neat one-two and sent Johnson away. The right back latched on to the pass, beat a man and cut back in to the box with Ngog waiting, but it was a deflection of the defence that sent the ball in to the net and Liverpool were back to even terms.
With Trazonspor now needing two more goals to qualify, they surged forward looking for a goal but it was the Merseysiders who struck the killing blow with Kuyt on hand to turn in a long range effort that was parried into his path with an open goal in front of him.
Liverpool going on to claim victory in very tough conditions and without many key players. The next step is the Europa League proper for the Red army with the competition kicking off on September 16th.