Thursday, 16 September 2010

Liverpool 4 Steaua Bucharest 1: Joe Cole hits first Reds goal as Roy's boys overcome early trouble to cruise home


By John Edwards

Finally: Joe Cole breaks his Liverpool duck with his side's opener

The contest that really matters is still more than 48 hours away, but Roy Hodgson could claim to be one up on Sir Alex Ferguson after Liverpool eventually dismantled Steaua Bucharest at half-empty Anfield last night.

While Ferguson had to defend his team selection after surrendering two Champions League points against Rangers on Tuesday night, Hodgson was all smiles after arranging his priorities in the same order yet coming away with a convincing launch to his European group campaign.

Just as Manchester United counterpart Ferguson had done, Hodgson appeared to place domestic considerations ahead of European commitments.

With one eye on Sunday’s Barclays Premier League trip to Old Trafford, he kept Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Glen Johnson out of his starting line-up.

The Liverpool manager may well have been squirming in his seat as a flying start from Joe Cole was promptly cancelled out by a 13thminute equaliser from a lively Steaua side.

It all ended serenely enough for Hodgson and his players, though, as David Ngog scored twice and substitute Lucas hammered home a 25-yard blockbuster in between.

Relief: Ngog runs off after slotting home his penalty

Reflecting on his understrength line-up, Hodgson said: ‘It was important to make decisions for the right reasons. So many players have been away on international duty and this was the right moment to give them a rest to prepare for Sunday.

‘It helped that those players who came in did well enough to carry us through, but the selection decisions would have been just as valid if the result had not been as good.

Pensive: Roy Hodgson (centre) wasn't always happy during his side's win

‘I put Lucas on to shore up the midfield, but I didn’t really expect a goal like that from him. It was a strike that Steven Gerrard would have been proud of.’

Cole’s opener was timed at 26 seconds. Octavian Abrudan seemed struck by stagefright as he received a pass from Ifeanyi Emeghara and turned to roll it back to goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu.

A nervy flick of the right boot made only minimal contact with the ball and gave Cole the chance to seize on it and clip a shot beyond the keeper’s reach for his first Liverpool goal at the fifth time of asking.

Get in! Joe Cole slots home his goal after 27 seconds

There were more jitters in the Steaua defence in the fifth minute as Sotiris Kyrgiakos won the aerial duel for Cole’s corner and saw his header scrambled away.

If Romanian nerves needed settling, though, Cristian Tanase came up with the perfect antidote in the 10th minute, as Steaua claimed a shock equaliser.

Bosh! Lucas hammers home Liverpool's third of the night

Bogdan Stancu’s pinpoint ball gave him the opening and he made the most of it by holding off a challenge from Kyrgiakos and expertly lifting a shot over the advancing Pepe Reina — captain for the night in the absence of Gerrard and Carragher.

Pantelis Kapetanos’ attempt to bail out his defence led to a Liverpool penalty in the 55th minute. Trying to prevent Kyrgiakos reaching a Maxi Rodriguez corner, Kapetanos succeeded only in hauling the big defender to the floor for a spot-kick that Ngog swept home.

In front of a paltry crowd of 25,605 — Anfield’s lowest for 10 years — Liverpool at last relaxed.

Lucas had been on the pitch barely three minutes when he unleashed a ferocious, right-foot drive that flew into the top corner and drew applause from Gerrard in the directors’ box.

Ngog then wriggled past two challenges before firing a shot into the bottom corner for 4-1.

source: dailymail

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