By EddieC, 26-10-2012, 00:09:52
A Stewart Downing goal put Liverpool top of Europa League Group A as Anzhi Makhachkala were beaten 1-0 at Anfield.
|Despite the narrow scoreline the Reds never looked in danger of losing to the Russian league leaders, managed by former Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink.
Anzhi have been splashing the cash in the past couple of years – listing talents like Samuel Eto’o, Christopher Samba and Yuri Zhirkov amongst their ranks – so were not to be taken lightly. Indeedsports betting websites believed a Liverpool win to be only slightly more likely than a draw.
However the Reds were undeterred, and could have easily won the game by more than a one goal margin.
Liverpool started the brighter of the two teams, with Luis Suarez in particular looking lively. Within the opening 10 minutes the Uruguayan had nutmegged two defenders, swivelled past another inside the box before over-hitting his cross, and taken up an excellent position to collect Oussama Assaidi’s cross before shooting straight at Anzhi goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov.
With little to do defensively the fullbacks pushed forward, and Glen Johnson made the goalkeeper work with a fierce shot on 21 minutes. The first clear-cut chance of the game fell to Jonjo Shelvey, when Suarez played the England youngster through with just the keeper to beat. Inexplicably though Shelvey skied his shot and almost reached the back of the Anfield Road stand.
Liverpool continued to press, with Assaidi looking particularly bright. The Moroccan was a thorn in the side of the Anzhi defence, consistently probing their back line with some skillful footwork.
Despite having the lions share of possession and being on the front foot, the Reds were unable to find an opening goal in the first 45 minutes.
Half-time brought a change for Liverpool, with Raheem Sterling replacing Johnson, and Downing dropping deeper to play at left back.
The Liverpool defenders seemed determined to get on the scoresheet, with first Agger then Skrtel having attempts on goal. Steven Gerrard was next to come close, connecting with Shelvey’s ball into the box before heading narrowly wide.
On 53 minutes the goal finally came when Downing cut in from the left flank and hit a right-footed shot into the bottom corner from 25 yards. The winger-come-fullback looked delighted to score his second goal in Europe this season.
Downing almost undid his earlier good work with a haphazard ball across his own box, but the Liverpool defence were able to avert trouble. Samuel Eto’o gave the home fans a scare collected the ball in a central position on 70 minutes but the striker’s powerful effort was too close to Liverpool’s stand-in goalkeeper Brad Jones.
Anzhi stepped things up a notch in the final 10 minutes, but the Reds were able to stand firm. The final shot of the night came from Gerrard, whose attempt from range came close to making it 2-0.
There were no more goals to be had though, and the game finished 1-0. Whilst not the most resounding victory it was the second home win in the space of a week for Liverpool, and is bound to leave the team brimming with confidence ahead of this weekends derby match against Everton.