Steaua Bucharest 1
So, job done. We rode our luck slightly, were made to work hard but came through in the end.
One can ‘t expect such a make shift side let alone, an inexperienced one, not have some hairy moments but on the whole we acquitted ourselves well but without setting the world on fire, I believe “workmanlike” is the phrase? The game continued to justify HRH’s successful policy of resting key players in this competition and bringing on youth. This time we made ten changes from the Spurs game, see the team line up below, only Reina survived. Joe Cole was back from injury.
It was always expected that changes would be made but ten? Before the game HRH asserted his faith in his younger players however, with so many changes surely this, on paper at least, was a big ask? I felt sorry for Joe Cole back from injury and being thrust into this situation. I had visions of him wondering around the midfield like some lost sole wondering why he was here and who all these players were! It was a long way to go to get match fitness?
The first fifteen minutes were unremarkable. The only real irritation Reina had was from some silly little knob head in the stands shining a laser pen at him, but even when his happened he appeared not to notice. We created little looking unable to find any rhythm or continuity. So although Steaua weren’t much better, it was surprising that on nineteen minutes we took the lead.
Jovanovic started and finished the move displaying a good turn to outwit two Steaua players before advancing forward and passing to Babel. The Dutchman’s cut back and cross caught out three Steaua defenders who were all heading at pace to the by line, and found the Serb, who had continued his run into the box. The header, albeit unmarked, was good – down and into the corner giving the keeper no chance.
Five minutes or so later Babel was at it again advancing down the left this time putting Cole in with a great ball. However Cole appeared to stand on the ball and by the time Jovanovic had picked up the pieces, Steaua had regrouped. However, after the shock of the goal the opposition managed to pull themselves together and had it not been for some really poor finishing could have gone in at half time 2-1 up. A Bicfalvi close range header somehow managed to clear our bar and just before the half time whistle Stancu shot wide after muscling Kyrgiakos’ challenge. Overall however, given the circumstances it was a satisfying half in fact more than most had hoped for?
After the break Steaua began to force the pace and created a string of corners without really offering much in the way of chances. The best effort came just after the break with Geraldo being presented with a free header from Tanase’s cross which Reina did well to get down to. Sadly on the hour Reina was not so competent letting Eder’s header squirm through his legs and creep over the line. The equaliser had been coming and was deserved however the manner it, and from an error by the most experienced Red on the pitch, must grate slightly with those in front of him who had worked so hard to keep Steaua at bay?
We nearly responded in the best possible way with Kyrgiakos heading against the bar from a rare corner and tried to counter Steaua’s attack with our own forward changes bringing on Ngog. Cole looked annoyed to be the subbed player but this was probably frustration at his own performance. He looked off the pace at times finding himself being caught in possession on more than one occasion but at least he will be better for the seventy minutes or so?
Steaua tried to press. Tanase wafted one just over the bar with Reina beaten. However we had enough to keep them out and send us through as group winners. After the game HRH commented…
“I’m very happy and happy most of all that the team we had confidence in to take on this tough task of playing Steaua away were able to produce the performance and get the result we needed…… It’s a good achievement considering we have gone through this Europa League campaign giving many players a chance to play who don’t normally play in the Premier League.”
One can’t argue with that and hopefully the policy will pay benefits for the squad in the distant future and the near future starting at Anfield on Monday.
Steaua Bucharest: Tatarusanu, Gardos, Latovlevici (Szekely 80), Geraldo, Eder, Tanase, Nicolita, Gomes, Bicfalvi (Angelov 46), Surdu, Stancu, Substitutes: Lungu, Emeghara, Abrudan, Martinovic, Angelov, Matei, Szekely
Liverpool: Reina, Aurelio, Kyrgiakos, Wilson, Kelly, Cole (Ngog 75), C Poulsen, Shelvey, Pacheco (Lucas 89), Jovanovic (Eccleston 78), Babel Substitutes: Jones, Skrtel, Flanagan, Robinson, Lucas, Ngog, Eccleston