Udinese 0-1 Liverpool Match Report
Liverpool travelled to Italy in their final group match in the Europa League knowing a win would guarantee qualification to the knock out stages of the competition. Liverpool were only a couple of minutes from qualifying in their last match at home to Young Boys at Anfield but a late strike from Zverotic prevented them from sealing the win. Udinese proved a difficult opponent at Anfield earlier in the competition with a 3-2 win at Anfield and with the Italians playing at home Liverpool knew it would be a very difficult night.
Brendan Rodgers had no option but to take a strong squad to Italy to achieve qualification. His plans of resting some of his regulars were scuppered with that late goal at Anfield against Young Boys, so only Gerrard, Agger and the fit again Lucas were the only players that didn’t travel who started last Saturday against Southampton.
Reina started in goal, with Johnson, Skrtel, Carragher and Enrique in defence in front of him. Downing and Suso started wide in midfield with Sahin, Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson in the middle of midfield with Suarez playing as the lone striker.
Udinese used some rough tactics to unsettle Liverpool in the opening exchanges, and Sahin had to be replaced after only 12 minutes by Shelvey with blood streaming from his nose. Reina had to be lively to tip over Pereyra’s deft chip.
Liverpool gradually came into the game and the momentum swung when Downing’s corner ended up at the feet of Henderson via a Suarez header and a Suso lay-off and the midfielder shot past former Liverpool keeper Padelli to give Liverpool the lead.
The much maligned Henderson grew in confidence with his goal and Liverpool almost doubled their lead in the 28th minute when Johnson tapped the ball into the net, but his effort was ruled offside.
Udinese started to struggle against the movement of the visitors and Suarez went close twice before half-time, first with a drive that flashed past the post and then from an overhead kick that Padelli did well to tip over.
Liverpool started the second half looking for a second goal that would give them some breathing space, and Suso should have obliged after being sent clear by Suarez after he broke through the middle of the Italian defence, but Suso skewed his effort well off target.
Next, Suarez blasted over from 18 yards. But Liverpool’s missed chances almost proved costly when Ranegie met a Pasquale corner kick with his head, but his effort skimmed the bar.
Suarez and Henderson were denied by two brilliant saves from Padelli as a second goal proved elusive, but it looked as if it wouldn’t matter when Pasquale was sent off for a second yellow card with only 10 minutes to go. But Liverpool were almost put out of the competition with the last kick of the game when substitute Di Natale burst into the box, but his volleyed effort shaved Reina’s cross bar and Liverpool breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Rodgers fielded a strong side as he couldn’t take any chances, and I thought Skrtel and Carragher were superb in defence to keep the clean sheet that was required to progress. So pleased for Henderson to be the hero with his first goal of the season and his goal gave him confidence to produce a very good performance. A very good away performance from Liverpool, who received some tough challenges from Udinese. Liverpool passed the ball really well and created some good chances, but failure to take the chances almost proved costly with Di Natale’s late effort. A deserved win and European football to look forward to in the New Year.