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Sunday, 20 February 2011
SPARTA PRAGUE 0-0 LIVERPOOL MATCH REPORT
This competition has taken on more importance for Liverpool as the season has went on, especially now as its their only chance of silverware this season. A game with personal importance for Kenny Dalglish as it was his first match in charge of Liverpool in Europe. With Liverpool going into the match with a few injuries and a threadbare squad it was never going to be an easy game.
Liverpool went into this game with few attacking options and set their stall out to not lose. Big expectations with many youth players added to the squad with special mention to 16 year old Raheem Sterling who was fresh from scoring 5 goals in Monday's FA Youth Cup match win over Southend. But only the youth team captain Conor Coady actually made the bench as Liverpool did manage to field an experienced side with exception to 19 year old Danny Wilson who came in at left back. Without knowing what the team would be I had no idea where we were going to get goals from with Agger, Gerrard, Carroll and Suarez missing for this match. N'Gog leading the line in a weak attack.
A very cold night in Prague and the game started in very cagey fashion as Liverpool passed the ball about without getting forward. In fact the first chance came on 13 minutes when Meireles and Aurelio got into a mix up but Keric shot off target. Chances were at a premium as Liverpool seemed happy to contain Sparta Matejovsky had the next chance shooting wide from 25 yards, then Reina had to palm away a Parnic shot as Sparta looked for the opener. As the half wore on N'Gog was looking more and more an isolated figure as Liverpool never threatened the Sparta goal, it was 29 minutes before Liverpool had a shot at goal with Aurelio having a bouncing effort from long range. Sparta almost scored in the 35th minute but Matejovsky had his goalbound shot brilliantly blocked by Kyrgiakos. Then Aurelio picked up an injury and was replaced by Joe Cole. A Meireles corner was flicked on by N'Gog just on half-time but Kuyt failed to make sufficient contact. The second half was more of the same but Johnson did add more of an attacking threat with his runs down the right but too often there was nobody in the box to meet his crosses. Reina made a good save to deny Kweuke as Sparta tried to find a goal to take a lead to Anfield but overall Liverpool were quite comfortable with what Sparta had to offer and they held out for a decent result away from home in Europe.
A big build up for this game being Kenny's first venture into Europe as a Liverpool manager, but what a disappointing game. To be fair I was expecting it really as Kenny had very few attacking options with Gerrard, Suarez and Carroll all unavailable. So I thought we would really struggle to score and so it proved but we hardly threatened the Sparta goal all night which was really poor but I think Kenny opted for a very unusual conservative game plan due to his lack of attacking options, at least his game plan worked as Sparta rarely threatened. Great to see Danny Wilson starting some youth players in the squad giving them good experience. I'm sure it will be a totally different game at Anfield next Thursday and confident we will win.
Man Of The Match - Kyrgiakos - A very strong performance from the big man and made one goal saving block too.