After The Match 


Unirea Urziceni-Liverpool 1-3 (1-2)      25.2.10                    EL
Goals: Mascherano (29), Babel (40), Gerrard (57)
Fernandes (18)
Team: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Insua, Lucas, Mascherano, Babel, Benayoun, Gerrard, Ngog
Subs: Kelly (Carragher 61), Kyrgiakos (Skrtel 63),
Aurelio (Benayoun 77)
Not used: Cavalieri, Aquilani, Torres, Kuyt
Yellow: Babel (20), Mascherano (61)
Onofras (28), Fernandes (31), Arlauskis (54)
Red: None
Referee: Stefan Johannesson (SWE)
Attendance: 25,000
Shots on target: 3-8
Shots off target: 5-1
Blocked shots: 6-2
Fouls conceded: 9-17
Corners: 9-5
Offsides: 2-0
Possession: 38.2-61.8
Yellow: 3-2

HEADLINES "We needed
to be calm
and do the job properly..."

Rafael Benitez
2602: Stevie proud to beat Shearer
2502: Rafa hails Reds' fighting spirit
2502: Liverpool overcome early setback 


Stevie proud to beat Shearer

By Steve Hunter - LFC Official Website

Steven Gerrard admitted he was a proud man after eclipsing Alan Shearer’s European scoring record during Liverpool's 3-1 win in Unirea.

The skipper's second-half strike took him beyond Shearer as the British player with the most European goals for an English club (33).

The Reds No.8 told "I wasn't aware before the game about a record and it's always nice to break them, especially someone like Shearer's, who I have a lot of respect for, so I'm really pleased."

Rafael Benitez's side recorded a 4-1 aggregate win in Bucharest and Gerrard added: "We are very pleased to be through to the last 16 as it was a very difficult game and the pitch was shocking, so to win 3-1 and progress is what it's all about.

"We knew it was going to be difficult before the game and it was a great response from the team after they scored the first goal.

"We want to go all the way to the final and if we keep showing the fighting mentality and character we showed against Unirea and stick together then I'm sure we can."

The skipper also admitted there was more to come from him after netting his seventh goal of the season in Bucharest.

"I am not back to my best yet but I'm getting close," he said.

"I'm working hard in training and during the games. I am getting back to where I want to be."

Rafa hails Reds' fighting spirit


Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez was pleased with the character shown by his side in their 3-1 victory over Unirea Urziceni in Romania, which sealed a 4-1 aggregate win and a place in the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League.

Shaky defending from set-pieces in the first half saw them fall behind to Bruno Fernandes' header in the 19th minute and for a while they looked rattled.

However, goals from Javier Mascherano from long range and Ryan Babel from close in turned things around before the interval and Steven Gerrard's 33rd European goal after the break ensured any potential embarrassment was avoided.

"We showed character. It was a difficult game because of the pitch. We needed to be calm and do the job properly," Benitez said.

"To play better we needed to score our goal as they were dangerous at set-pieces. I think once we scored a goal everything was easier and the second and third goals made things better. Still we had some problems but the main thing was to score; we did it and we had more control of the game."

However, just as he thought his injury worries were easing, Benitez lost centre-back Martin Skrtel to a suspected broken foot after a second-half clash with substitute Antonio Semedo.

"At this moment we don't know how serious it is but it could be a broken foot," said the Spaniard. "That would be bad news but we will have to wait and see what happens but it was a bad tackle."

Gerrard's goal took him past Alan Shearer (with 30 goals for Newcastle and two for Blackburn) as Britain's leading scorer in Europe. Benitez felt it was an honour well deserved.

"It is really positive for him and the club - it also means we are playing a lot of games in Europe so hopefully we can play a lot more and he can score more goals," said the Spaniard.

"It is very good news for the club. This is a historic club with a lot of records so to have a new record is massive for him and very important to the club."

Liverpool overcome early setback

The Irish Times

Liverpool avoided a potential Europa League embarrassment in Romania as they came from behind to book their place in the last 16.

Shaky defending from set-pieces in the first half saw them fall behind to Bruno Fernandes’ header in the 19th minute and for a while they looked rattled.

However, a long range Javier Mascherano Strike and a Ryan Babel goal turned things around before Steven Gerrard’s 33rd European goal wrapped things up after the break.

It was the first time since the 6-1 win over Hull in September that Liverpool had scored more than twice in a game, a run of 29 matches.

A year ago today they beat Real Madrid 1-0 in the Bernabeu on the way to a 5-0 aggregate win before their eventual Champions League quarter-final defeat by Chelsea.

But their early struggles in the Steaua Stadium showed just how far the club’s fortunes have plummeted in 12 months as Unirea created a number of chances, mainly from free-kicks and corners, which the visitors almost shambolically failed to deal with.

Backed by a vociferous crowd, the Romanian champions created their first opening in only the second minute.

Jamie Carragher’s header from Iulian Apostol’s free-kick only reached the edge of the penalty area and Sorin Frunza lashed a dipping volley onto the top of Jose Reina’s net.

Less than 60 seconds later, Lucas Leiva picked out Gerrard with a through-ball but the Liverpool captain’s fierce low drive was parried into the air by goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis.

Liverpool were retaining possession for long periods without really hurting their opponents but it was to cost them as, in the 19th minute, Unirea levelled the tie on aggregate.

Daniel Agger’s last-ditch tackle on Marius Onofras gave the hosts a corner from the left and Razvan Paduretu’s inviting delivery was perfect for centre-back Fernandes to power home a header virtually unchallenged.

George Galamaz’s foul on Martin Skrtel resulted in the Unirea captain coming off worst and, despite trying to run off his injury, he was replaced by Ersin Mehmedovic in the 28th minute.

Two minutes later Liverpool seized control of the tie from the most unlikely of sources.

Yossi Benayoun and David Ngog combined to allow Carragher to cross and, although Babel mis-controlled Gerrard’s far post header with only the goalkeeper to the beat, the ball broke to Mascherano outside the penalty area to lash a shot past Arlauskis.

But they almost handed the initiative back to Unirea in the 36th minute when Paduretu’s inswinging corner caused chaos in the six-yard area, hitting Agger but bouncing inches wide.

The Romanian midfielder’s low 25-yard shot then had Reina diving to his right to tip around the post.

However, Liverpool gave themselves the cushion they so desperately needed five minutes before half-time.

Gerrard swung in a free-kick from the right and Babel took one touch before swivelling to fire home from close range.

Early in the second half Gerrard fired wide of Arlauskis’ right-hand post and also forced him into a low save on the same side, as Liverpool started to play with slightly more freedom.

If there was any doubt about Unirea staging an unlikely comeback it was snuffed out by Gerrard in the 57th minute.

Babel broke down the left, moving the ball to Lucas and he picked out Benayoun, whose mazy dribble into the area was only half-stopped to allow the Liverpool captain to run onto the loose ball and blast a low shot under Arlauskis.

That strike was his 33rd in Europe, taking him past Alan Shearer, who scored 30 for Newcastle and two for Blackburn.

That prompted the introduction of youngster Martin Kelly for Carragher at right-back and, almost immediately, Sotirios Kyrgiakos after Unirea substitute Antonio Semedo caught Skrtel in a challenge.

With thoughts turning to Blackburn on Sunday in the Barclays Premier League, manager Rafael Benitez replaced Benayoun with Fabio Aurelio for the final 15 minutes.

Emiliano Insua’s late intervention poked the ball off the toe of Paduretu just as he was about to pull the trigger in the six-yard area but otherwise there were no other scares.

But their first-half defensive lapses will not have gone unnoticed by Rovers boss Sam Allardyce ahead of his side’s visit to Anfield.

Much greater challenges lie ahead for Benitez and his Liverpool team.

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Thor Zakariassen ©