After The Match 


Liverpool-Unirea Urziceni 1-0 (0-0)       18.2.10                   EL
Goals: Ngog (81)
Team: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Aurelio, Kuyt, Aquilani, Mascherano, Riera, Gerrard, N'gog
Subs: Pacheco (Aquilani 75), Babel (Riera 63), Lucas (N'gog 90)
Not used: Cavalieri, Kyrgiakos, Insua, Degen
Yellow: Mascherano (69)            Fernandes (40), Brandan (58)
Red: None
Referee: Eric Braamhaar (NED)
Attendance: 40.450
Shots on target: 5-0
Shots off target: 9-4
Blocked shots: 10-1
Fouls conceded: 16-8
Corners: 14-1
Offsides: 1-0
Possession: 67.4-32.6
Yellow: 1-2

HEADLINES "It is not
the best
result but
it is good."
Rafael Benitez
1902: Pacheco and Babel praised by Carragher
1902: Fourth place is priority for Reds
1902: Narrow advantage suits Benitez
1802: Gerrard: We'll finish job off
1802: Ngog fires frustrated Liverpool to victory

Pacheco and Babel
praised by Carragher

By James Pearce - Liverpool Echo

Jamie Carragher paid tribute to Liverpool super subs Ryan Babel and Daniel Pacheco after they helped secure a 1-0 victory over Unirea Urziceni in the first leg of the Europa League clash at Anfield.

Babel provided the cross from the left which Pacheco headed back across goal for David Ngog to net the only goal of the game nine minutes from time.

“Ryan and Dani did very well when they came on and made a big contribution for the goal,” Carragher said.

“They gave us a bit of a lift and more energy and that’s what we needed. They made the difference.”

It was Pacheco’s third senior appearance and Carragher believes the young Spaniard has a big future.

“Pacheco came on and did well again,” he added.

“He’s a good lad as well and all of the lads get on with him very well. We are delighted for him to get his first team chance which he deserves.”

The Reds only have a narrow lead to take to Bucharest for next Thursday’s second leg but Carragher is confident they will progress to the last 16.

“In Europe you never want to concede a goal so we have to be pleased with that,” he said.

“We would have liked to have scored a few more goals and kill the tie off but it’s still alive now and it will be a difficult game over there.

“They were very organised and we have to give them credit for that. It’s up to us to try and break them down and in the end we did.

“It would have been nice to get a few more but hopefully we can get an away goal and finish the game off next week.”

Fourth place is priority for Reds

Comment by David Randles - Liverpool Echo

It started just days after the Champions League exit. Arsenal were the visitors to Anfield. Not renowned for their sharp terrace humour, the Gunners supporters proceeded to have a laugh at the expense of their hosts, trying out a new ditty that was purpose made for the occasion.

As ‘Thursday night. Channel Five’ rang out from the Anfield Road towards the Kop the ignominy of slipping through the Champions League trap door into the Europa League suddenly hit home.

For anyone watching on TV last night, the temptation to flick over to Channel 4 and My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding must have been difficult to resist as Liverpool struggled to break the deadlock against the little known Unirea Urziceni.

With that, the Gunners fans might well gloat.

Their trip to Oporto a night earlier marked a 10th consecutive year in the Champions League knockout stage. No other team can boast such an enviable record.

They might never have won it, but consistent participation throughout the competition’s wealthiest era has guaranteed Arsenal a share of the riches that are deemed essential for the privileged few to continue to rub wallets year after year.

With Liverpool clinging on to their claims for re-entry into that competition Arsenal’s model of consistency will attract enviable glances from the Anfield’s money men.

It seems the penny is yet to drop with those who hold the purse strings, though, that investment in the squad increases the probability of success on the pitch which in turn delivers the financial rewards to sustain your position at the top of the game.

It’s not exactly rocket science, and yet failure to build on previous successes now sees Liverpool feeding off the scraps on offer in the Champions League’s poor relation.

Although an admirable 40,000plus turned up at Anfield last night, there was a sense that no-one really wanted to be there.

Other than the few hundred Urziceni fans who stayed behind to conduct a rendition of ‘Hey Jude’, events in the stands were akin to those on the pitch; bereft of inspiration and a little bit flat.

But then this was Liverpool’s first taste of European football away from the elite since 2004 when a Didier Drogba-inspired Marseille dumped Gerard Houllier’s team out of the UEFA Cup at the fourth round stage.

Indeed, it was Rafa Benitez’s Valencia that went on to beat the French club in the final that year.

Allied with a second La Liga title in three seasons, the Spaniard was brought to the attention of Liverpool.

In terms of his CV, Benitez knows all too well about the value of the Europa League. After all, it was this competition that helped springboard him to Champions League success.

In terms of the long-term future of Liverpool Football Club though, victory in Hamburg on May 12 will be hollow if it means forfeiting fourth place in the Premier League.

Of course, it is a sad indictment on the modern game that winning a trophy can be deemed secondary to being the fourth best team in your division.

So while Benitez, Gerrard, Mascherano and Insua have all pledged their desire this week to become the most successful club in UEFA Cup history, privately they must know that domestic matters must be taken care of first.

Failure to qualify for the Champions League again, however, could impact further on the squad and lead to more nights like last night.

In the same way that the best players want to play in the Champions League, Europa League clubs attract Europa League players.

Put another way, Shakhtar Donetsk picked up around £3.6million for winning the competition last year.

Meanwhile, Barcelona scooped upwards of £30million for beating all before them in the Champions League.

The disparities between the two are stark.

For the likes of Liverpool, who increasingly appear to exist to service the debt saddled on the club, it is a pressing concern.

It was only nine years ago that a special night in Dortmund signalled the ascent of a once great football club in Europe again.

Liverpool fans will be hoping that this season’s campaign isn’t a sign that things are about to head in the other direction.

Narrow advantage suits Benitez


Rafael Benitez was satisfied with Liverpool's 1-0 Europa League victory over Unirea Urziceni despite their obvious struggles at Anfield.

Striker David Ngog's goal nine minutes from time eventually ended the Romanians' resistance on Thursday night to give the Reds some breathing space ahead of next week's return leg.

And although Benitez would have liked a bigger cushion, he was happy to take a slender lead to Bucharest.

"I think we could have scored one or two more goals but that is football," he said.

"The team was doing well in defence, 1-0 and a clean sheet is not bad.

"Sometimes when the other team is defending well you have to be patient and keep more of the ball and then we scored at the end.

"It is always important to score, especially in this competition, and not concede so we were waiting for this goal and were really please when we scored.

"It is not the best result but it is good. If we score one [in Romania] they have to score three so a clean sheet was important so we have to be relieved.

"If you ask me if I would prefer 2-0 then 100% yes but you cannot change the score now.

"We knew they were well-organised and they were a good team so we were expecting more or less their style of play."

Two substitutes played a major part in the goal with Ryan Babel crossing for Daniel Pacheco to head back to Ngog and Benitez said he was glad to have options from the bench.

"It is always important to have good players on the bench with skills that can change a game," he added.

The match could have been a lot easier had Steven Gerrard put away Liverpool's first chance after just 25 seconds.

Ngog's goal was only the sixth in seven European matches this season - a far cry from the last campaign when they routed Real Madrid 4-0 at Anfield 11 months ago and scored four in a Champions League quarter-final against Chelsea.

However, Benitez said it was unrealistic to expect his side to consistently repeat those performances.

"We started really well and I was really pleased for a while," said the Spaniard.

"We cannot play at the same level that we played against Real Madrid every game, especially when the away team is defending well.

"You have to take you chances and if we had taken the first one in the first minute it could have been totally different but we had to be patient and keep on attacking.

"We were trying, passing the ball and continuing to move the ball."

Unirea coach Roni Levy believes the tie is far from over.

"I am disappointed in the result. Of course, Liverpool had the ball for most of the game but one moment we didn't concentrate we conceded a goal," he said.

"My players came and did the best they could do. This is the first half of two legs and I am looking forward to next week.

"It is a good result to take back to Bucharest: there is still a lot of interest in the game and still we have a chance."

Gerrard: We'll finish job off

By Paul Eaton - LFC Official Website

Steven Gerrard reflected on Liverpool's slender first leg victory over Unirea Urziceni on Thursday night and insisted the Reds will finish the job off in Bucharest next week.

Liverpool will travel to the Romanian capital with a David Ngog goal to protect as they look to secure their place in the last sixteen of the competiiton, but the skipper believes Rafael Benitez's side will prove too strong for Unirea on their own pitch.

"Unirea were very stubborn tonight," he said. "We expected that because their manager has set up a team against us before and we knew they'd be difficult to break down.

"We have to be more clinical and I am confident we will get more joy away from home against them. They will have to try to beat us and we can kill them off.

"Maybe we lacked five or ten per cent on the pace of the ball tonight but I am sure we will be better next week."

A place iin the last sixteen against Lille or Fenerbahce is up for grabs if the Reds can secure their progression next Thursday - and Gerrard insists the Europa League is a competiion which will take some winning this season.

"The teams knocked out of the Champions League are fantastic teams and some of the top sides across Europe are in the competition so it's going to be tough to win it but we're confident we can go all the way," he added.

Ngog fires frustrated
Liverpool to victory

Evening Echo

Striker David Ngog’s goal nine minutes from time eventually broke the resistance of a determined Unirea Urziceni at Anfield in the Europa League.

With the visitors intent on soaking up plenty of pressure Rafael Benitez’s side struggled to find the creativity to get past the massed Romanian ranks.

However, the Frenchman’s close-range header meant the Reds have some breathing space as they head to Bucharest for next week’s last-32 second leg.

The victory was only Liverpool’s third in nine European fixtures since they hammered Real Madrid 4-0 in the last 16 of the Champions League 11 months ago - a disappointing run which contributed to their exit from Europe’s elite-level competition in December.

Their job would have been easier had Steven Gerrard converted their first chance after just 25 seconds when Unirea lost possession straight from the kick-off.

Albert Riera and Dirk Kuyt linked up for the Dutchman to put the midfielder through but his side-foot shot was tipped over by goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis, who then punched away the Liverpool captain’s corner.

Unirea’s 4-5-1 formation meant they were happy to keep 10 men behind the ball and when Liverpool gained possession they all immediately retreated to the halfway line – meaning the hosts had to work hard for their openings.

However, Kuyt enjoyed some luck in the 10th minute when his heavy touch in the penalty area was not cleared and he followed up to flash a shot across goal which Arlauskis tipped past the post.

Gerrard was next to miss a chance, planting a 12-yard header from Riera’s cross well wide.

Riera tried his luck from distance in the 26th minute but his left-foot drive was deflected wide by George Galamaz.

The game had taken on an attack versus defence training exercise with Unirea rarely venturing forward.

When they did, with a counter-attack just after the half-hour, Marius Onofras attempted an audacious lob over Jose Reina from the halfway line wide on the right but the Spain goalkeeper comfortably claimed.

Javier Mascherano’s 30-yard drive was deflected wide by Razvan Paduretu while Ngog’s shot on the turn from just inside the penalty area was also diverted wide.

Five minutes before half-time Bruno Fernandes was booked for bringing down Gerrard as he looked to burst clear but Daniel Agger drilled the 35-yard free-kick straight into the wall.

Heartened by their first half performance Unirea looked more inclined to go forward after the break but it was Liverpool who had the first chance with Gerrard heading wide again from Jamie Carragher’s 52nd-minute cross.

Pablo Brandan was booked for tripping Gerrard in the centre-circle, ruling him out of next week’s second leg through suspension.

Had Paduretu shown more composure on the edge of the area Liverpool could have been in trouble but the midfielder hacked wildly over.

Fabio Aurelio’s low drive was on target but he was denied by a good low save from Arlauskis.

The ineffective Riera was replaced by Ryan Babel for the last 28 minutes and he began encouragingly with two decisive runs, the latter resulting in a cross to Gerrard at the far post which the England international could not keep in.

Mascherano was booked for a foul on Iulian Apostol as Liverpool continued to labour.

Martin Skrtel should have put the home side ahead in the 71st minute but he headed over Aurelio’s inswinging corner from five yards.

Benitez sent on reserve team striker Daniel Pacheco, making only his second appearance in Europe, for Alberto Aquilani with quarter of an hour remaining.

Mascherano was caught in possession by Apostol, who charged forward 20 yards before curling a shot woefully wide.

With nine minutes to go the breakthrough finally came, with Pacheco playing an important part.

The diminutive Spaniard, possibly the smallest player on the pitch, out-jumped his marker at the far post to head back across goal for Ngog to nod in from five yards.

Gerrard fired just wide in the closing stages as Liverpool pushed for the second which would give them a cushion ahead of the second.

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