Liverpool 1-0 Anzhi Match Report
Europa League action was next on the agenda for Liverpool as they faced Russian aristocrats Anzhi Makhachkala who lead the Russian league. The Russian leaders have used their wealth to bring quality to their side in the form of Yuri Zhirkov, Christopher Samba and Samuel Eto’o. Liverpool lost their last Europa League match at home to Udinese, so a positive result was vital if Liverpool were to continue in the competition.
Brendan Rodgers has been using his full squad for this season’s Europa League matches, but he was not taking anything for granted against Anzhi as he knew the quality he faced and the result he needed. Pepe Reina was still struggling with an injury, so Brad Jones once again deputised for the Spaniard, but Rodgers fielded his regular looking defence, with Wisdom, Agger, Skrtel and Johnson all starting. Assaidi made a rare start on the left with Sahin, Shelvey and Gerrard in the middle of midfield and Stewart Downing wide on the right, Luis Suarez was selected as striker in Brendan Rodgers strong team selection.
Suarez was influential from the start as he nutmegged a couple of defenders in the first 10 minutes, then he beat another defender before over hitting his cross. Suarez then had a shot saved by Gabulov after receiving an Assaidi cross.
Anzhi seemed reluctant to venture forward as they set their stall out to frustrate Liverpool and defend in numbers in their quest to take a point back to Russia.
With little to do defensively, Johnson made the goalkeeper work with a shot from just inside the area on 21 minutes, while Suarez presented Jonjo Shelvey with a straightforward chance to open the scoring. Running towards the edge of the box, the England youngster elected to shoot first time and saw his blast loop into the Anfield Road end.
Liverpool continued to probe for an opening, but found it hard to create many chances against Anzhi’s well organised defence. Assaidi showed great tenacity to create an opening for but his shot was easily saved by Gabulov.
Eto’o looked an isolated figure for most of the first half with Anzhi’s reluctance to venture forward, and it was just before the half-time whistle before Anzhi mustered their first shot at the Liverpool goal when Smolov fired an ambitious 35 yard effort well wide.
Brendan Rodgers made a change at half-time with Raheem Sterling coming on for Johnson to play down the left with Downing switching to left-back.
Liverpool continued to press for the opener in the second half, with Agger shooting off target from long range after striding forward. Straight after it, Skrtel had a go. The goalkeeper fumbled but recovered in time. Seconds later Shelvey centred as Gerrard sprinted towards the near post, Suarez the far. It was the skipper who connected, stretching to execute a header which landed narrowly wide.
On 53 minutes the goal finally came when Downing cut in from his flank and smacked right-footed into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
It was the wide man’s second goal – he also has three assists – in Europe so far this term. “Stewart Downing, he scores when he wants,” chanted the Kop.
The goal finally stimulated Anzhi to come forward as they started to press Liverpool back into their own half. Goal hero Stewart Downing almost gifted Anzhi an equaliser with a suicidal pass into his own penalty area which Skrtel did well to hack clear only to fall to Eto’o at the edge of the box, Eto’o’s powerful shot was well saved by Jones as Liverpool started to look a bit nervous with their precarious lead.
Liverpool endured a tense final tense 10 minutes as Anzhi camped inside the Liverpool half, but the home side held out for an important win to take them top of their Europa League group. It was Liverpool’s third consecutive clean sheet and a second win in a week which should bring great confidence going into Sunday’s Merseyside derby.
A great result for Liverpool against a talented Russian side who disappointingly came to defend. Liverpool looked frustrated to break Anzhi down as they struggled to create many chances. Suarez was as ever looking the biggest threat, but again became increasingly frustrated by some of the referee’s decisions, resulting in him receiving another yellow card for dissent. Assaidi looked very lively down the left and created many problems running at defenders. Glen Johnson also looked dangerous running forward as he complimented Assaidi. Liverpool’s defence looked rock solid especially in the final minutes when Anzhi threatened an equaliser. Andre Wisdom was superb again at right-back letting nothing past him and venturing forward when given the chance. A very important win for Liverpool and a third clean sheet in a row will give Liverpool great confidence going to Goodison on Sunday.