LACKLUSTER LIVERPOOL MAKE HARD WORK OF UNIREA
By Football Talk.
Liverpool hosted Romanian outfit Unirea Urziceni at Anfield in the first leg of their Europa League tie. This was not the European competition the Anfield faithful were expecting in mid-February but the supporters still turned out in their numbers to watch a full strength Liverpool side.
Liverpool started well and Steven Gerrard almost opened the scoring within 30 seconds with a close range shot which Giedrius Arlauskis did well to tip away for a corner.
Dutch forward Kirk Kuyt went even closer 10 minutes later when his effort deflected wide for a corner, while full-back Aurelio sent a free-kick wide of the post.
Unirea’s first attempt on goal saw a free-kick end up straight in Reina’s arms, the Spaniard was a relative on-looker for much of the first half.
Albert Riera was seeing a lot of the ball and causing the Unirea defense all sorts of problems. The Spanish winger went close on several occasions but the Romanian’s stood firm.
David N’Gog was the latest player to go close to opening the scoring just before the break, but he sent his shot wide of the post. Apart from that effort, N’Gog was having a poor game up front for The Reds. The first half ended 0-0 will Unirea causing little trouble to Pepe Reina’s goal while Liverpool were lacking any real cutting edge.
Liverpool began the second half brightly and Steven Gerrard again went close with a header before Aurelio fired an effort wide. Rafa Benitez introduced Ryan Babel after an hour to give his side some pace.
However, the Dutch winger failed to make any real impression on the game and was too often eased of the ball by the Romanian defense.
Unirea almost took a shock lead after a mistake by Daniel Agger. The Liverpool centre back intercepted a ball meant for Reina that fell to Frunza who could only fire wide. Liverpool went up the other end and Skrtel should have done better with a header following Aurelio’s corner.
Liverpool were running out of time and summer signing Alberto Aquilani was replaced by Dani Pacheco after another disappointing display. The young Spaniard made an instant impression on the Anfield faithful as he provided an assist for David N’Gog to head home to give Liverpool the lead.
1-0 N’Gog (80)
Steven Gerrard almost doubled Liverpool’s advantage but his 20 yard effort flew just wide. Javier Mascherano had a penalty appeal turned down in stoppage time but the game ended 1-0 and Liverpool head to Romania with a slender one-goal advantage.