Not exactly the result we wanted nor a classic European night. Nonetheless I guess this should be looked at in the overall context of what we want to do with our season?
This competition does take second priority to the league and Roy Hodgson was fairly forthright in emphasising this before the game. We have a slender lead to take to Turkey for the second leg however it could and should have been more with a little more luck? Joe Cole missed a penalty, we had another sure fire appeal turned down and Christian Poulsen had a perfectly good goal disallowed. It’s also another clean sheet achieved with a less than full strength team and Torres looked nearer to regaining full fitness.
HRH’s line up reflected the injuries and the fixtures we had coming up. Seven changes were made from Sunday. In came Aurelio and Kelly at left and right back and Kyrgiakos replaced Skrtel in the centre. In midfield Poulsen made his debut whilst Lucas and Maxi also started, Gerrard, Kuyt and Johnson sat it out. Perhaps the most interesting selection was Ryan Babel playing in the CENTRE of the attack, a position he has repeatedly stated he prefers but one that Rafa never played him in. It could be the chance the Dutchman has been waiting for? Torres sat on the sidelines.
Our first chance, on a quick rain soaked surface, came after four minutes with Kyrgiakos heading down Aurelio’s corner but not down far enough enabling Kivrak in the Trabzonspor goal to make an easy save. However for the visitors caution wasn’t the watchword they looked lively, working hard to close us down and going forward whenever they could even though they didn’t really trouble us too severely. However it was enough to give us something to think about making it difficult for the makeshift team to settle down and find any kind of rhythm so when we did score, just before the break, it was something of a surprise.
Once again Joe Cole was involved picking a loose ball up, from two Trasnpour players who both went for a high clearance and made a hash of it, and running at the goal area. The Turkish defenders were attracted to him like a moth to flames leaving Babel in space on left. Cole saw him and the Dutchman produced a neat finish, opening his body and side footing a lifted shot over the advancing Kivrak into the opposite corner. Until then Babel has had a quiet game but he has scored in a position that he prefers. One goal doesn’t prove anything but perhaps HRH might persevere with him in this position may be even having second thoughts about getting a second striker? Is it really too premature to say that perhaps Ngog and Babel could shoulder the responsibility if Torres is injured?
So another incident just before the break however his time HRH won’t mind redrafting his half time team talk even though, despite the goal, he would have probably had much to say? One suspected that HRH asked the team to be more positive. Torres, on for Babel, didn’t mess about putting these instructions into practice testing the keeper from wide on the left with a low shot that he struggled to guide over the cross bar. The resulting corner saw an unmarked Lucas header go wide when he should have scored or at least tested Kivrak again?
In the fiftieth minute Maxi was upended in the corner of the box. It was a certain penalty, contact was made. The referee then compounded his error by awarding us a corner when it should have been a goal kick. Nonetheless if at first you don’t succeed try again this time Lucas, in the other corner, was upended by Serkan. Joe Cole stepped up but for the second game in succession experienced disappointment at Anfield as Kivrak easily saved the kick. Did the keeper move too early or guess well (yes and yes) however, Cole’s kick wasn’t exactly low or into the corner.
Despite this it was more positive. Jovanovic, after some good strong aggressive play, received Torres’ return and again the keeper, with another none too convincing stop, came between us and a second. Jovanovic was involved again crossing for Torres who did well to evade his marker and produce a strong header that this time the keeper did well to save. In between Cole bought out another nervy save from the increasingly fortunate Kivrak with a free kick from wide on the right. We then had another goal disallowed because it seemed that Poulsen (who had a solid if unspectacular debut) had fouled the keeper when scoring. He didn’t the keeper, despite what his playacting after the move suggested, was no where near it.
Nonetheless it was not all one way traffic. The Turks seemed galvanised after the penalty miss and nearly equalised after Bulut evaded our entire back four offside trap only for Reina to get his body in the way in deny him. They also forced a number of corners and looked spritely enough to suggest that the second leg will be something of a challenge just the sort of thing welcome you want after a long trip to get there! It’s going to be a tiring week
Finally I’m n holiday for seven days so you might not here from me for at least a week if I don’t find and internet whilst I’m away. I will be good to have a break but as ever footy is never far away and already thoughts are turning to finding a pub that will be showing the Manchester City game on Monday!
Liverpool: Reina, Aurelio, Kyrgiakos, Carragher, Kelly, J Cole, Maxi (Ngog 73), Lucas, Poulsen, Jovanovic, Babel (Torres 46), Substitutes: Cavalieri, Wilson, Skrtel, Spearing, Torres, Pacheco, Ngog
Trabzonspor: Kivrak, Cale, Glowacki, Gulselam, Korkmaz, Inan, Yilmaz (Alanzinho 56), Balci, Teofilo Gutierrez, Bulut (Ibrahima Yattara 86), Colman (Kacar 77), Substitutes: Zengin, Kacar, Atas, Alanzinho, Badur, Jaja, Ibrahima Yattara