Unirea Urziceni 1
Bruno Fernandes 18
Mascherano 29, Babel 40, Gerrard 57
An easy and comfortable win with, as ever when we play these days, some, good, some bad and, in the case of Martin Skrtel’s clash has lead to him breaking his toe, the dam right ugly!
However, it was a long trip and we came through and went part of the way to answering some of the criticism that came our way after the first leg and Sunday’s game against Manchester City. This time we attacked more, we had to as the tie was soon leveled and, more to the point, took our chances when they came. Believe it or not this is the first time we have scored more than two goals in a game since we thumped six past Hull City in September!
Rafa kept the changes to a minimum bringing in Benayoun for the cup tied Maxi and Ngog for Kuyt. The start of the game gave no indication of the ease that we would encounter later as Unirea metamorphosed from the reticent, ultra cautious side we saw at Anfield into something a dam sight more positive. No doubt they were better drilled and fitter having had more matches since their winter break by this was a different Unirea and as a result, perhaps also due to the occasion and the long trip, our defence looked less than comfortable as the old bad habits that soured our form earlier this season surfaced again. This culminated in Bruno Fernandes being allowed to nod home unhindered from a Paduretu corner even though there seemed to be more red than white shirts in the box.
After this one could be forgiven for thinking we were in for a difficult evening however, the ship was soon steadied as the midfield eventually found it’s feet and slowly began to exert some form of control. The equaliser, and vital away goal, came from the most unlikely of sources. Unirea desperately hacked the ball way to escape Ngog’s pressure. It fell to Mascherano about twenty yards out who, after years of seemingly blazing over and wide in fact everywhere but the goal, connected sweetly – this time it was only going to one place!
Although Unirea continued to test us, for example Paduretu produced a good save from Reina from distance, one got the feeling that with the away goal we were in the driving seat. Sure enough we made it safe just before half time. Gerrard sent over a free kick and as Skrtel was winding up the shot Babel nipped in bought the ball down brilliantly and stroked it home. A vital goal and a perhaps sign that our Ryan, might be entering one of his better periods?
As Unirea pushed forward more gaps emerged and it was no surprise to see Gerrard score his 33rd European goal after good work from Benayoun. However there was some bad news. Skrtel’s no holds barred, “I’m not pulling out of this” challenge with Semedo didn’t get the result it deserved and it is doubtful we will see him for a while as he was stretchered off with a suspected broken toe.
However, on the whole it was a good night. Yes the defence looked ropey but let’s put this down to a blip given their good form of late. Skrtel’s injured but Kyrgiakos has proved to be an able replacement. We’ve got Lille in the next round as opposed to an arduous trip to Fenerbahce and we’ve seen some goals which can only increase confidence going into Sunday’s game with Blackburn in the Premiership which, although tonight was satisfactory, is still where the priority still lies?
Unirea Urziceni: Arlauskis, Galamaz (Mehmedovic 27), Bruno Fernandes, Bordeanu, Maftei, Paraschiv, Vilana 56), Paduretu, Frunza, Apostol, Bilasco, Onofras (Semedo 62), Substitutes: Tudor, Mehmedovic, Nicu, Vilana, Marinescu, Rusescu, Semedo
Liverpool: Reina, Agger, Insua, Carragher (Kelly 61), Skrtel (Kyrgiakos 66), Gerrard, Benayoun (Aurelio 77), Mascherano, Lucas, Babel, Ngog Substitutes: Cavalieri, Aurelio, Kyrgiakos, Kelly, Aquilani, Torres, Kuyt