TRUE KOPITES WE ARE THE REDS COMMUNITY PAGE
Friday, 3 December 2010
STEAUA BUCHAREST 1-1 LIVERPOOL MATCH REPORT
Liverpool being very close to qualifying for the knockout stages and thinking a draw would do with the reassurance of a final home game against Utrecht to come, were obviously going to make changes to the team for this one as Hodgson has done in this competition from the start. It never is easy away from home in Europe and with Steaua who have a great history in Europe would not make this easy for Liverpool who were hoping to keep their unbeaten Europa League record going.
I was never going to be able to predict the team for this one as wholesale changes were expected with Aston Villa our next League game at home on Monday night. Many regulars didn't even travel. Reina was on the only player starting from the Spurs fixture last Sunday and it was great to see him captaining the side. I was very encouraged and pleased to see so many youngsters and fringe players starting the match. Kelly, Wilson, Pacheco and Shelvey given great experience by starting. Also great to see Aurelio, Cole and the enigmatic Babel playing too. The team selected really interested me in how they would cope in this one.
Liverpool started the match on the back foot and and sat very deep as Steaua took the initiative. Steaua controlled the early proceedings winning a few corners and free kicks without really testing Reina. But then with just over ten minutes played Steaua should have taken the lead when a cross from the left was headed over the bar. Liverpool responded and with their first real venture forward Jovanovic did well playing the ball wide to Babel who made a yard of space before crossing the ball to Jovanovic who produced a great header directing into the corner of the Steaua net totally against the run of play. Liverpool should have doubled their lead soon after when Babel broke down the left and squared the ball to Cole who was clean through but his first touch let him down and the chance was gone. Jovanovic had started the game well with a few good runs forward and looked like he was trying to impress. Babel also looked lively in the early stages for Liverpool. But Steaua continued to press and Bicfalvi came close volleying just wide of Reina's right hand post from the edge of the box. Then right on half time Steaua should have equalised when Stancu held off the aireal challenge of Kyrgiakos in the box and found himself with just Reina to beat but he shot well wide and Liverpool went in at the half with a 1-0 lead. The second half scripted the same as the first half with Steaua doing all the pressing and Liverpool under pressure to hold their lead. Early in the second half Alves had a header from close range which Reina held. But Steaua got their deserved equaliser on the hour mark in bizarre fashion when a blocked cross by Aurelio spun into the air and was headed towards goal by Bonfim from about 15 yards out, it seemed like a routine save for Reina but it somehow managed to squirm between his legs and over the line for the equaliser. The rest of the game followed the same theme as Steaua went for the winner and Liverpool defending stoutly. Liverpool were unlucky not to take the lead again in the 65th minute when an Aurelio corner was headed by Kyrgiakos only to see it come off the top of the Steaua cross bar. Steau came close in the latter stages when Stancu's curling effort just landed onto the top of Reina's net. Liverpool held on for the precious draw but it was not easy.
Not the most important fixture we will play this year hence Roy's team selection but it turned out a great result considering so many first choice players missing. Tremendous to see Pacheco, Kelly, Wilson and Shelvey starting. We did play second fiddle for most of the game as Steaua dominated but I thought the defence played really well, Wilson and Kyrgiakos held firm in the middle and Kelly defended superbly as the winger he faced tried to take him on at every opportunity with very little success. I thought Shelvey played really well and looked very confident on the ball never misplacing a pass. Jovanovic started well but faded but a great header from him for our goal. I was very disappointed with Pacheco as I felt the game passed him by, not involved enough. Joe Cole was another disappointment as he continuely gave the ball away and missed a great chance to score when Babel sent him clean through his first touch letting him down., but he must be a bit rusty after being out so long so it was a big ask. Babel played really well and looked like he was their to impress and in my view he did, great assist for the goal. A good result and plenty of positives to take out of this performance.
Man Of The Match - Babel he looked hungry and played as a team player holding the ball up making good runs and making the right passes, great cross for our goal and superb work to set up Cole. He's gave something for Hodgson to think about now.