Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Liverpool 1 - 0 Debrecen

A frustating day for the REDS as they just managed with that solitary goal. Liverpool opened their Champions League campaign in unconvincing fashion with a narrow win over Hungarian champions Debrecen.
Dirk Kuyt's goal in first-half stoppage time settled an undistinguished encounter played out in a strangely subdued Anfield atmosphere.
Kuyt swept home the winner after Debrecen keeper Vukasin Poleksic failed to hold a low shot from Fernando Torres.
It was the high point of a low-key performance - but manager Rafael Benitez will simply be relieved that Liverpool achieved their main target of making a victorious start in Group E.
Liverpool deserved to clinch the three points for a period of sustained pressure that ended with Kuyt's goal but Debrecen, the first Hungarian side in the group phase of the Champions League for 14 years, stuck gamely to their task and provided the odd anxious moment for the Kop.
In the end, it was Liverpool's 100th victory in this competition in both its guises, the European Cup and the Champions League, and came in Benitez's 300th game in charge at Anfield. It was an occasion unworthy of such milestones.
Goalkeeper Jose Reina saved well from Peter Czvitkovics before the hosts heeded the warning signs and stepped up the tempo to make the crucial breakthrough.
Albert Riera had been denied by Poleksic and Norbert Meszaros cleared off the line from Kuyt before the Netherlands striker got the goal that proved to be decisive.
Steven Gerrard and Yossi Benayoun almost doubled Liverpool's advantage, although striker Adamo Coulibaly wasted half-chances near the end to earn Debrecen an unlikely point.
Anfield's reaction at the final whistle was tinged with relief rather than elation - and it was the noisy band of away supporters who stayed behind to revel in a landmark night for their club.
Benitez afforded himself the luxury of naming the same Liverpool team that beat Burnley 4-0 at Anfield on Saturday.
And in an unusually muted Anfield, with even a few empty seats to be seen, Liverpool found difficulty in finding their rhythm in the opening stages.
Indeed, the only incident of note early on was a booking for Liverpool captain Gerrard from Portuguese official Pedro Proenca for taking a free-kick too quickly.
Debrecen posed the first serious danger on the half hour when Czvitkovics - wearing number 77 - forced a fine diving save from Reina after Martin Skrtel had presented him with possession 25 yards out.
Reina then clutched a long-range free-kick from Laszlo Bodnar - and as Anfield vented its growing frustration, Liverpool finally sparked into life.
Riera was prominent as Liverpool finally exerted their superiority on the Hungarians, shooting just wide from Gerrard's pass then bringing a fine save from keeper Poleksic before defender Meszaros kicked off the line as Kuyt pounced on the rebound.
Gerrard then side-footed inches wide from Riera's cross, but the goal was coming and so it proved as Liverpool went ahead in first-half stoppage time.
Benayoun released Torres, and when Poleksic could not hold his shot Kuyt was again loitering with intent to turn home the loose ball.
The Reds picked up the pace again after the break and Gerrard was only inches off target with a stunning rising volley with Poleksic merely a helpless bystander.
Benayoun, a hat-trick hero against Burnley on Saturday, was almost on the scoresheet again after 64 minutes when he ended a weaving run with a low shot that Poleksic turned away unconvincingly at his near post.
Coulibaly made a hash of a presentable chance near the end when he closed in on Reina, but Liverpool survived in relative comfort to secure the win.

No comments: