Webster og (78)
Job done is the first thing you can say about this game.
Brendon Rogers, with Sunday and ManchesterCity in mind, fielded a weakened side. Something of a risk (calculated?) against a game and determined Hearts side, it would have been easy to field more big guns to ensure the victory which was needed after Saturday? Nonetheless Rogers trusted his “back up men” and his players delivered. Although one can never rule out Hearts when we only have a one goal lead Rogers has the luxury of being able to call on more experience in the second leg at Anfield should he need to.
It is too early to say just where The Europa League fits into our priorities however, unsurprisingly, the signs are that it’s not number one – would it ever be with any club? To this end only four players who started against West Brom were selected. Andy Carroll, who didn’t start, sat out the game “injured”, a genuine complaint or has a deal been struck?
One of the starters, Jose Reina, was probably the busiest as Hearts set about their task with gusto. However, Reina was not too troubled as, for all their effort and hard work, most of Hearts’ goal attempts were from distance. The first half reminded me of say a third round FA Cup tie involving a Premiership team and one from the Championship. Hearts, perhaps mindful of the tonking they took from Spurs in the same competition a year ago, were clearly determined to seize the moment, ride on the home support and take the game to us. We tried to bide our time and strangle the life out of it by keeping possession. Neither was side particularly successful in their aims.
Our early season lack of confidence, or rustiness, on the ball, together with Hearts’ excellent closing down, was exposed as Sutton almost made the most of Carragher’s weak back pass, thankfully Reina got there first. He was called into action again tipping away a long Novikovas effort. Charlie Adam responded for us with a low drive which McDonald, in the Hearts goal, tipped away.
As the half wound down Hearts had good reason to be pleased however, there was always the feeling that they wouldn’t be able to maintain the tempo after the break and that, as a result we would get more openings which Raheem Sterling, who looked confidence and dangerous, could exploit. Nonetheless it was the home team’s half (to paraphrase Pete Wylie “Hearts as big as Liverpool”) and it would have been an injustice had Borini, picking up Sterling’s pass just before the whistle, had scored instead of hitting the post.
Despite another long range Novikovas effort the second half slowly began to fall into our hands as Hearts appeared to wilt. Yet for all this one felt that 0-0 was the likeliest outcome with only Sterling cutting in from the right and using his pace looking the most likely to make the breakthrough. Then Kelly found room on the right to fire over a defender’s nightmare of a cross. Borini made an attempt to steer it home but couldn’t get near it however, and luckily for us, Webster’s leg was there to deflect it into his own net.
Hearts refused to be bowed, Driver found himself in excellent position just outside the six yard but his shot was weak and then Reina saved well from Paterson at the death.
So a win a good chance to progress but more importantly Rogers, his players and the Liverpool fans will be take some encouragement from this result. It was a good response to Saturday’s disappointment and it was needed heaven knows what would have been said in the lead up to City game had we lost!
Hearts: MacDonald, Grainger, McGowan, Barr Booked (Robinson – 87′ ), Webster, Zaliukas, Paterson, Templeton (Driver – 79′ ), Taouil, Sutton, Novikovas (Carrick – 84′ ) Substitutes: Enckelman, McGowan, McHattie, Driver, Robinson, Smith, Carrick
Liverpool: Reina, Agger, Carragher, Kelly, Robinson (Downing – 62′ ), Henderson, Spearing (Allen – 67′ ), Adam, Sterling, Shelvey, Borini (Morgan – 90′ ) Substitutes: Jones, Coates, Flanagan, Downing, Lucas, Allen, Morgan