Liverpool 1–0 Unirea Urziceni
Liverpool kick off their Europa League campaign with a home tie to fellow UEFA Champions League drop outs Unirea. Although a home defeat to Unirea would be an embarrassment, let’s consider the fact that Unirea hold a double over Rangers in the CL with one of those games being a storming 4-1 performance at Ibrox. So embarrassing yes, but humiliating? I don’t think so.
In the team and nice to see a start for the Little Prince in place of Lucas and a start for Liverpool’s good/bad player Albert Riera, the Spaniard with a bit to prove to Kopites before he can be deemed worthy of a starting XI role consistently.
Liverpool started with a bang after 30 seconds when a well thought out move saw Kuyt put the ball through to Gerrard who would have been nailed on to score had the ball not been bouncing and therefore on the rise when Gerrard hit it – resulting in a save from the Unirea keeper.
Liverpool controlled a heavy majority of the possession in a fairly subdued first half. although the reds were limited to half chances. A long range shot from Mascherano deflected out for a corner and an attempted pass by Kuyt which was blocked only to see the Dutch maestro pick up the ball again take it inside and be saved from a very tight angle are just two examples of the chances that Liverpool had in the first half.
Possibly the best out of all of them fell to Ngog when with his back to goal he performs a lovely turn and sees his shot go wide off a deflection. Unirea have close to no shots in this half and if Liverpool had of been a little bit sharper the score could have been different but as it happens 0-0 at half time.
Second half then and let’s hope for a better performance in the box from Liverpool. However the first attempt of the half- surprisingly goes to Unirea when the ball drops to Paduretu but fortunately for Liverpool the bounce was unkind to him and the ball went sky high. Another great effort for Liverpool when a shot from the returning Fabio Aurelio is just pushed wide by the Unirea keeper. Every Liverpool player appearing to pitch in here with chances even Martin Skrtel who off a corner sees his furious header go over the bar. Substitute Ryan Babel is very active in the game but Unirea appearing very defensive and continue to keep their whole team behind the ball. Babel would appear to play a key role in the match as the power of the substitution is shown when a cross from Babel is met by Pacheco and turned in by Ngog. Anfield which has been fairly silent with comparison to a CL night still breathed a sigh of relief.
Gerrard had a great effort go wide when he struck the ball on a half volley and the ball go just wide of the post. The referee became the target of some hostile boos from the Kop when Mascherano was hacked down at the very corner of the penalty box but the ref gives a corner in an outrageous decision.
So a fairly frustrating night for Liverpool after many missed chances but in the end Liverpool walking away with the lead going into the second leg in Romania in a week’s time. After tonights performance I think there were a few contenders for man of the match. Mainly skipper Steven Gerrard who had a fair few efforts but just couldn’t find the net, alongside Gerrard has to be his second in command Jamie Carragher who put in a fantastic performance from the right back position. However, as important as the man of the match award is, and as much as I hate to discuss the topic, there is actually a competition for worst man of the match award. After all the Unirea players there is Albert Riera who just quite frankly had an atrocious game tonight and also Alberto Aquilani who put in a less than perfect performance. Either way, the bottom line is Liverpool got the win and thats all that matters.