Mascherano fires in Liverpool’s first
Despite conceding first on the night Liverpool cruised in to the last 16 of this year’s Europa League after effectively sealing this tie by half time.
The reds knew grabbing a goal would make life exceptionally difficult for the Romanian champions so scored three just to make sure. This wasn’t without conceding the first goal of the game after a barrage of well taken corners from our opponents.
Ryan Babel was handed a second consecutive start for Liverpool with Kuyt dropping to the bench to allow Benayoun to make his first start since his injury on the right wing.
A couple of chances at either end started the game in bright fashion, but it was Liverpool who dominated possession. Urinea’s gameplan quickly became apparent. They started with all their men behind the ball like at Anfield last week and aiming to nick a goal.
Their tactics appeared to work when in the 18th minute when after numerous other corners, eventually one fell right – and Bruno Fernandes met the ball with his head to power the ball in to the top of the net. 1-1 and the game was just getting ready to sparkle.
Just before the half hour mark though and the balance was shifted back even more strongly in Liverpool’s favour when a reds attack saw the ball land at Mascherano’s feet 25 yards in front of goal. His powerful shot sailed in, restoring the reds one goal advantage – and more crucially giving them an away goal.
Ten minutes later Ryan Babel controlled the ball well before firing in to leave Unirea with a mountain to climb.
The second half Unirea attempted attacks but Reina had very little to do throughout the half. Before we reached the hour mark Steven Gerrard lashed in his 33rd European goal – all with Liverpool – and a new English record.
It was Lucas who fed the incoming Benayoun, and his pass allowed Gerrard to fire home.
Martin Skrtel was stretchered off after taking a kick in the ankle – Kyrgiakos joining the fray as his replacement.
The final half hour saw Unirea make several feeble attempts to try and score the four goals they needed but Liverpool were never in danger and move in to the last 16 of this tournament.
Post Match Interviews
“I enjoy every goal because I don’t get too many, so it is good to score and help the team.
“We knew it would be really difficult because of the condition of the pitch – it wasn’t the best.
“But we tried to do our best and the team showed character and that is good.”
“We knew before the game it was going to be tough. Unirea aren’t a bad side and the conditions were horrendous out there.
“It was difficult to run and stop, but credit to the boys because we stuck in there.
“We went a goal down, but we showed good character to get back into it with a fantastic strike from Javier.
“When he does score, they tend to be from outside the box. It was a fantastic strike and one I’d certainly be proud of.”
Teams and Stats
Liverpool: Reina, Agger, Insua, Carragher (Kelly 60), Skrtel (Kyrgiakos 65), Gerrard, Benayoun (Aurelio 77), Mascherano, Lucas, Babel, Ngog. Subs (not used): Cavalieri, Aquilani, Torres, Kuyt.
Goals: Mascherano 29, Babel 40, Gerrard 59
Yellow cards: Mascherano, Babel
Unirea Urziceni: Arlauskis, Galamaz, Bruno Fernandes, Bordeanu, Maftei, Paraschiv (Vilana 55), Paduretu, Frunza, Apostol, Bilasco, Onofras (Semedo 61). Subs (not used): Tudor, Mehmedovic, Nicu, Marinescu, Rusescu.
Yellow cards: Arlauskis, Fernandes, Onofras
Goals: Fernandes 18