Liverpool have made no bones about treating the Europa League as a secondary competition this season. Where it lies on their list of priorities has been evidenced by the players they have regularly left at home. The trip to Steaua Bucharest was made in the absence of Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger (all injured), whilst Glen Johnson, Raul Meireles and Fernando Torres all missed out.
Nevertheless Liverpool eased to qualification, finishing top of Group K with a game to spare; their 1-1 draw in Bucharest being enough when supplemented by Napoli and Utrecht sharing the spoils in their game. A swift counterattack saw Ryan Babel and Milan Jovanovic combine for the latter to glance the opener, rendering Pepe Reina’s uncharacteristic error which gifted Eder an equaliser a mere afterthought.
Reina praise for youngsters.
Pepe Reina praised the effort of Liverpool’s youngsters who helped earn the team a point in the intimidating surroundings of Stadionul Ghencea. Liverpool started with a team that was virtually unrecognisable from their 2-1 defeat to Tottenham at the weekend; the likes of Daniel Wilson, Jonjo Shelvey and Daniel Pacheco stepping up in more experienced players’ stead.
Reina told skysports.com: “We have to give them some credit because they made a great effort.” At the same time as accepting the blame for Steaua Bucharest’s equaliser, he praised the youngsters’ mentality as Liverpool eased to qualification with a game to spare. “We have players out there with not much experience and they showed great character and helped us get the point we needed.”
Roy Hodgson was gushing with pride as he spoke to the Daily Mirror following Liverpool’s qualification from their Europa League Group K. He was delighted in particular at the way his young players had handled the pressure of the European stage, earning Liverpool the required point to qualify in Bucharest.
“I asked a lot of the players – asking that team with so many young players who hadn’t played for a long time to come to Romania to get a result against a team of Steaua’s quality was a big test,” he admitted. “To have topped our group with a game to spare is a good achievement with a lot of players who haven’t had regular games.”