Anzhi 1-0 Liverpool Match Report
Liverpool went into their Europa League tie away to Anzhi on top of their group, but a changed team to the one that defeated Anzhi at Anfield would be expected with Liverpool taking the trip to London to play Chelsea on Sunday. Many regular first teamers like Steven Gerrard, Suarez, Agger, Skrtel, Allen, Sterling and Reina did not travel to Moscow with the main priority being the Chelsea match on Sunday.
With Brendan Rodgers not taking many regulars on the trip to Moscow, Rodgers mixed his side with a mixture of youth and experience, Jamie Carragher, Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and birthday boy Joe Cole gave the team experience alongside Flanagan, Coates, Wisdom, Shelvey, Morgan and Coady who was making his first team debut. Brad Jones once again kept goal in his recent run in the team.
The match started at a pedestrian pace with both teams trying to get a feel for the ball. Anzhi created the first chance of the match when Rasim Tagirbekov’s left-footer across goal from the edge of the box failed to trouble Brad Jones, however, with five minutes played.
Liverpool looked to pass the ball around at the back under little pressure from the hosts, but without creating much although Adam Morgan looked lively up front with his movement.
But the hosts were afforded a real let off on 23 minutes when Morgan slipped Jordan Henderson through on goal. He elected to try and pull the ball back to allow the young striker a tap in, but Joao Carlos was able to intercept and a promising opening went begging.
Zhirkov stole the ball off Wisdom and broke into a dangerous position before finding Eto’o 12 yards out who was thwarted by a great save from Brad Jones.
The effort seemed to galvanise the home side and they put Liverpool on the back foot for the first time in the match.
But with the match looking to be heading for a stalemate at half-time, Traore’s clever flick-and-spin beyond the attentions of Coates sent him bearing down on goal. With Jones rushing out to meet him, the striker lofted the ball over the advancing No.1 to alter Rodgers’ half-time teamtalk.
Liverpool looked to respond quickly and Morgan struck into the side-netting after a neat pass from Cole released him into space.
But at the other end Jones was required to pluck Eto’o’s curler out of the air while Traore was millimetres away from grabbing a second with a 20-yard blast.
With an hour played and Liverpool chasing the game, Rodgers sent on Suso and Pacheco for Morgan and Coady to try and improve Liverpool’s attack.
Liverpool began to take control of possession, though Jones was needed to thwart Traore’s close-range header as the game edged towards a conclusion.
Suso’s introduction had provided the Reds with a different attacking impetus, and the 18-year-old was involved in their best opportunity of the evening so far on 77 minutes. His shimmy on the edge of the box created space for a shot, which was spilled by Vladimir Gabulov – but the Anzhi custodian sprung to his feet swiftly to repel Cole’s follow up.
It was Cole’s last involvement in the match as he was replaced by Assaidi in another attacking substitution.
With the visitors pushing forward in search of an equaliser, a counter-attack from Guus Hiddink’s men resulted in Traore racing through on goal, only to steer wide.
The Reds continued to toil throughout the final stages in the hope of clinching a point, but it wasn’t to be as Anzhi held out.
A very young Liverpool side faced a very expensive Anzhi side. Great to see so many youngsters starting and Coady making his first team debut. Morgan and Coady did really well along with many others. Joe Cole does not look good enough to play for us anymore, and Downing and Henderson just don’t look confident. Andre Wisdom played well again apart from getting caught in possession in the first half. Liverpool passed the ball sideways and backwards far too often and never created enough and never really looked like scoring all night, but neither did Anzhi until a slip by Coates allowed Troare to score the winner right on half-time. Brad Jones made some really good saves, but got caught in no man’s land with the goal. Disappointing to lose, but more invaluable experience for so many youngsters.