Liverpool midfielder Lucas hopes to have
laid down a marker after captaining the team to a
comfortable season-opening Europa League victory last night.
The Reds were pressed into action with an inexperienced side
17 days before their Barclays Premier League campaign begins
after last season's seventh-placed finish left them needing
to qualify for Europe's second-tier competition.
With several World Cup players having only recently returned
to training, and others still on holiday, manager Roy
Hodgson chose to travel to face Macedonian side FK
Rabotnicki in Skopje with a youthful squad.
Lucas was one of just a handful of senior players to feature
and, in the absence of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher,
wore the captain's armband.
And, after a comfortable 2-0 victory, the Brazilian wants to
keep it for the second leg of the third round qualifier next
Lucas said: "It is a really good achievement for me. I am
really proud, really happy, but the most important thing was
"I know there are a lot of senior players in front of me but
I hope I did a really good job and hopefully I will keep it.
"We are really pleased. It is our first win of the season
and it was an important game.
"We got two away goals against a difficult team, so we have
started the right way.
"Hopefully we will keep the same for the next match."
David Ngog scored both goals as Liverpool eased to victory
with few alarms.
Lucas played alongside homegrown youngster Jay Spearing with
Alberto Aquilani playing in a more advanced role behind lone
With the likes of Gerrard, Joe Cole and Javier Mascherano -
although the latter has expressed a desire to leave -
training back on Merseyside, Lucas feels competition for
midfield places is strong.
"Jay was fantastic and Alberto is getting the fitness back,"
"This is good for the team, this is good for the season.
"When you have good competition with good players it will
always be good for the team.
"The first two friendlies were to get our fitness back. Now
for the official game we were 100% and we were ready.
"It was really important we won away with two goals and we
"The shape of the team was really good and hopefully we will
keep doing the same, but we still have to play the second
"We have to make sure we beat them again."
For Spearing the tie offers an early opportunity to impress
new manager Hodgson.
The 21-year-old Wirral-born player briefly broke into Rafael
Benitez's first team last season but ended the campaign on
loan at Leicester.
Spearing said: "It's a massive season for me, with a new
manager I've got to try to impress.
"It was a chance for me and the other young lads, (David)
Amoo and (Martin) Kelly, to show the boss what we are
"I'm happy with my performance but at the end of the day it
is a team one.
"We had our shape right, played for the 90 minutes and
passed the ball well at times.
"We are halfway there but we need to get back to Anfield and
finish the job off as soon as possible.
"We have got a lot of players to come back and fight for
"We have got to try to show the boss as many times as we can
that we can stay in it. I've got to show him I'm capable of
Ngog (right) celebrating with Amoo and Kelly.
Daniel Agger today tipped matchwinner
David Ngog to make it to the top after he got Roy Hodgson’s
reign as Liverpool manager off to a flying start.
The young French striker scored either side of half-time
last night to secure a 2-0 victory for the Reds against FK
Rabotnicki that has made the second leg of their Europa
League third qualifying round tie at Anfield a formality
Aside from his goals, Ngog impressed in the way he led the
line and there is little doubt, judging from his physical
appearance, that has been on an intensive programme this
summer to strengthen his spindly frame.
Agger – who was making his first appearance in Skopje after
his summer break – was taken with Ngog’s performance and
believes he will mature into more than just a deputy for
Fernando Torres if he applies himself correctly.
“We have got to give David credit for the two goals. He took
them very well – it was a very good performance,” said
Agger, who coasted through the 72 minutes he played.
“He was there in the right place at the right time, which is
what all good strikers do. He is a good player and has the
qualities but he knows that he still has a bit to learn.
“I know that he works hard every day but if he continues to
work hard then he will come on a long way. But he has to
keep working hard, as every one of us is doing, if he wants
to get there.”
Liverpool have a friendly against Borussia Moenchengladbach
to play on Sunday before they welcome Rabotnicki to Anfield
for what will be the final match ahead of the new campaign.
There is little doubt it has been a fragmented pre-season,
particularly as so many players have ended up returning to
Melwood at different times, and many fans are wondering what
impact it will have when the real business gets under way.
But Agger does not intend to get distracted by looking too
far down the line; his immediate priority is to help
Liverpool secure their place in the Europa League’s play-off
“I feel okay,” he said. “A bit tired but good. It’s a bit
different to training and I suppose after six training
sessions, it was okay to get through the game without any
“It was just a question of managing the game and keeping
hold of the ball so they couldn’t cause us problems.
Hopefully we have taken care of it for next week but you
“We have still got to play the second leg and we have got to
make sure that we win it. How will we be for the season? We
have just got to get on with it and not complain.
“Things are different at the minute and I am only just
getting to know the manager; I’ve only trained with him a
few times but we are all going to try and push on again.
We’ll see what happens.”
David Ngog struck twice as Roy Hodgson
began his reign as Liverpool manager with a 2-0 Europa
League win over FK Rabotnicki on Thursday.
The Frenchman found the net in each half as an
under-strength Liverpool side overcame FK Rabotnicki with
little alarm in the first leg of their third qualifying
round tie in Macedonia.
With 17 days still to go before their Premier League opener,
Liverpool were without 10 of their World Cup players but
their blend of youth and experience coped well in a game of
little drama. Hodgson's decision to leave behind the likes
of Steven Gerrard and Joe Cole was fully vindicated.
Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Alberto
Aquilani, Lucas and Ngog were the established players to
start, while new signing Milan Jovanovic was handed his
debut alongside David Amoo, making his first senior
Diego Cavalieri, Martin Kelly and Jay Spearing made up the
team but it was a sign of the times that the side on show at
the Philip II Stadium - an old arena halfway through an
impressive rebuild - was still worth £41million.
Liverpool, playing in black, began with Aquilani operating
in an advanced role behind Ngog on a balmy evening in
Rabotnicki had the first opportunity but Ze Carlos'
optimistic shot from a 40-yard free-kick was blocked by
Wandeir dos Santos attempted to beat Kelly on the left but
the young right-back stood up well.
Liverpool's first serious chance came when Kyrgiakos headed
wide from an Aquilani corner.
The visitors took the lead in the 17th minute when Ngog
raced through a static Rabotnicki defence to reach a Lucas
The Frenchman ran into the box unchallenged and clipped the
ball past a half-hearted attempt at a save from Martin
Brazil-born Ze Carlos found space as Rabotnicki tried to
respond but shot tamely at Cavalieri from distance.
Vladimir Tuneski also tried his luck from the edge of the
box but fired wide.
Amoo made his first dangerous run after switching from the
right to the left wing as half-time approached.
He reached the byline and pulled the ball back across goal
but Jovanovic was unable to get around a defender to reach
Amoo showed a glimpse of his potential early in the second
half as he set off on a run down the right after a neat turn
The 19-year-old Londoner cut inside to beat one man and then
went outside another but his cross was too long.
Another good run by Amoo created an opening for Lucas but
the Brazilian's touch let him down.
Liverpool were almost caught out as Dos Santos ran onto a
long ball into the box but he lost balance and Cavalieri
Liverpool countered through Jovanovic but Aquilani could not
control and Lucas shot over.
Dos Santos had another chance for the hosts but missed the
target from the edge of the box.
Liverpool doubled their advantage just before the hour as
Ngog volleyed in a fine second.
Kelly found space on the right and whipped in a ball which
the striker nimbly turned in.
Kelly worried Rabotnicki with another good run but his cross
was deflected and Bogatinov claimed.
The referee played on when half of the floodlights went out
with 10 minutes remaining and any fears the game might be
abandoned were quickly dispelled as some of the failed power
was quickly restored.
Many Rabotnicki fans knew the game was over, however, and
had left long before the final whistle.
And a lot of those that remained seemed to have had enough
as they tried to fool the players by blowing for time with
their own whistles.
Liverpool eased to walking pace and the real final whistle
eventually came to signal a winning start to the Hodgson