Friday, August 6, 2010

Liverpool 2 - 0 Rabotnicki Skopje (agg 4 - 0)

Joe Cole impressed on his competitive debut as Liverpool booked their spot in the Europa League play-offs draw with a 4-0 aggregate win over Rabotnicki.
Cole's curling cross after a corner set up David Ngog to nod in before the French striker soon created the second.
Ngog was hauled down by Fernando Lopes and the recalled Steven Gerrard poked home the penalty as half-time loomed.
Rabotnicki's best efforts came late on with Martin Kelly denying Marcio and Filip Petkovski hitting the right post.
Liverpool's future ownership may remain uncertain, with several parties reportedly keen on replacing Tom Hicks and George Gillett, but on the pitch the team look in relatively healthy shape.
It may not be Europe's premier event, but Roy Hodgson will be delighted with his team's efforts on the night he strode into Anfield for his first home match as manager.
Hodgson said he would put out the "strongest team possible" and dutifully introduced his England quartet who sat out last week's 2-0 victory in Skopje, with starts for Cole, Gerrard.
It was Ngog's double strike in the opening leg which set up his side's easy passage on Thursday and although the 21-year-old French striker was on the scoresheet again, it was Cole - so often an observer in the World Cup for England - who caught the eye.
The former Chelsea star orchestrated most of Liverpool's forward movement, and on 13 minutes he began a move that led to Ngog wasting a glorious chance when one-on-one as he casually allowed the keeper to swipe the ball from his feet.
Two minutes later, Cole's clever curling through-ball fell to Dani Pachecho and again the Liverpool's strikeforce proved negligent with the Spaniard too slow to react.
But Cole's artistry was finally rewarded as he picked up Gerrard's short corner and delivered a perfect bending cross for Ngog to head in from close-range.
With the Macedonian side increasingly pushed backwards as Gerrard and Cole dictated the pace and possession, the Anfield faithful were soon celebrating a second goal.
Lopes clumsily hacked down Ngog with five minutes to the break to leave Gerrard to coolly slot in the spot-kick for his 35th European goal for the club.
With the visitors restricted to one long-range free-kick from Nikola Gligorov in the first half, little changed after the break as the hosts continued to dominate with the ball.
They could even afford to bring on midfielder Alberto Aquilani for the impressive Gerrard on the hour, and Cole showed no signs in relinquishing his hunger for pressing goalwards.
Low saves from Martin Bogatinoc twice denied Cole before Ngog headed a Johnson cross narrowly wide.
But with just a few minutes left on the clock, Rabotnicki came close to scoring three times.
Gjorgi Mojsov had a reasonable penalty shout turned down and was booked for falling over Martin Skrtel's challenge and then Kelly was forced into a desperate clearance with Marcio inches away from heading in a consolation.
The Macedonian outfit poured forward and Petkovski was unlucky with a half-volley crashing against the woodwork from 10 yards out.

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