Sparta Prague 0
No doubt many will use this tie as another stick to beat Liverpool with.
Yes, we laboured and only managed to see off Prague with a last gasp effort four minutes from time. Yes, this should have been achieved much earlier had we showed a bit more ruthlessness, not to mention accuracy, in front of goal and yes it does show that there is still work to be done on the personnel side to increase strength in depth and polish up, or clear out, players who, quite frankly, aren’t doing it.
However, let’s be positive. With key players out, Gerrard, Suarez and Carroll (Liverpool’s most expensive season ticket holder?) watched from the stands, we still managed to show a degree of guile and tenacity to get a result that I believe wouldn’t have been achieved earlier in the season. Kenny, who was in charge of his first European game at Anfield, felt the same.
“Our determination and effort to get the result was superb. The pride they take in themselves and the club was rewarded in the end with a goal and we are delighted to go through.”
Kenny rang a few changes from the first leg Aurelio, Carragher and Johnson made way Agger and Kelly returned. Maxi was replaced by Poulsen and Joe Cole made a rare start. Ngog was given the chance to atone for his poor performance in the first leg and build on the good form he had shown earlier in the tournament.
Thankfully there was more action in this game than we saw in the first leg, could it be more uneventful? Both sides were more inclined to make a go of it and Prague, aware that if they got one goal we would have to get two, were, initially at least, in a more positive mood. Reina had made his presence felt causing Soinoko to sky over. He also did well to save Kadlec’s header, after good work by Vacek and Sionko. The visitors should have taken the lead after they were presented with an easy chance after Reina had flapped and missed a corner. However Sionko and Kadlec seemed to get in each others way and the opportunity to apply the decisive touch was gone.
Slowly we began to push Sparta back which was helped by Kuyt being moved into a more central position, however our finishing let us down. True Blazek managed to stretch and save Kyrgiakos’ header from Meireles’ corner however, that aside we only have ourselves to blame for having to wait so long for the winner. Meireles fired wide from Kelly’s cross and Ngog’s shot from Kuyt’s pull back could have been saved by my granny! Lucas was just wide from distance. Before all this we should have had a penalty after Pamic handled the ball in his own area in the first minute or so.
Joe Cole had and eventful evening. He showed some signs of the player we know he can be. His injury appears to be on the way to being put behind him he looked reasonably sharp and much more spritely than we‘ve seen of late. Blazek did well to save from his shot after he cut in from the left and at the end of the game he got on the end of a breakaway move only to shoot wide. However, still looked lost at times and perhaps Kenny, seeing that Cole is getting fitter, will be persuaded to play him in the position that best suits him?
Just as everyone was gearing up for extra time, cometh the hour cometh the man. Many malign him as being too much of a journeyman and even those who praise him usually just refer to his work ethic however Dirk Kuyt also has a handy knack of getting vital goals just when we need them just look back over his time with us if you are anorak enough. Just as he is in the process of agreeing a new contract he reminded us of his worth by cleverly slipping his marker and flicking in Meireles’ 86th minute corner with his head.
It was close run thing but name me a cup run where at least one or two games weren’t of this type. Onwards we go and with key players due to return, perhaps we can look forward to easier nights?
Liverpool: Reina, Agger (Skrtel 85), Kyrgiakos, Wilson, Kelly (Carragher 46), Meireles, Cole, Lucas, Poulsen (Spearing 65), Kuyt, Ngog, Substitutes: Gulacsi,
Carragher, Skrtel, Maxi, Spearing, Pacheco, Jovanovic
Sparta Prague: Blazek, Repka, Brabec, Abena (Pekhart 78), Pamic (Keric 90), Sionko (Podany 73), Matejovsky, Kusnir, Vacek, Leonard Kweuke, Kadlec, Substitutes: Zitka, Kladrubsky, Husek, Podany, Zeman, Keric, Pekhart