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Friday 24 August 2012

UEFA Europa League: Liverpool edge Hearts, Newcastle held

Own goal earns Reds victory at hearts; Magpies draw with Greek side Atromitos

Fabio Borini wheels away after Liverpool's winning goal against Hearts at Tynecastle

Heart of Midlothian 0-1 Liverpool

Liverpool will take a one-goal lead into their UEFA Europa League play-off second leg at Anfield next week after edging a 1-0 victory against Heart of Midlothian.

With the Reds due to play Manchester City in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday manager Brendan Rodgers rested a number of first-team players for the trip to Edinburgh and was grateful for a late own goal by Andy Webster that gave his side a slender aggregate lead.

Hearts will consider themselves unfortunate not to have scored at the right end after a committed display in which they frequently tested goalkeeper Pepe Reina, although Liverpool's Fabio Borini did strike a post following excellent approach play by 17-year-old forward Raheem Sterling.

The visitors upped the tempo in the second half and scored with 12 minutes remaining when Webster turned Martin Kelly's cross past Jamie MacDonald.

The winners of the play-off ties qualify for the group stages of the competition.

Atromitos 1-1 Newcastle United

Newcastle United came from behind to clinch an important away goal and earn a hard-fought draw in sweltering conditions in Athens.

The Magpies fell behind midway through the first half when Denis Epstein capitalised on some early home pressure, but on the stroke of half-time Ryan Taylor levelled the tie with a free-kick.

Like Liverpool, Newcastle opted to rest several key players with Saturday evening's League visit to Chelsea in mind, and the game was played at crawling pace due to the stifling 38C heat.

The hosts appeared better adapted to the conditions and missed two early chances before taking the lead on 24 minutes, when Nikola Bigic lofted a pass over right-back James Tavernier and German winger Epstein beat the advancing Steve Harper.

Atromitos's best other chance fell to Konstantinos Giannoulis, who connected with a half-volley that went over the crossbar late on. By then, though, Alan Pardew's side had the away goal they needed as set-piece specialist Taylor sent a curling effort past former Liverpool goalkeeper Charles Itandje.

It was also a landmark occasion for Newcastle's 17-year-old forward Adam Campbell, who became the club's youngest European player when he came off the bench with 13 minutes remaining. The play-off second legs will be played on Thursday, August 30th.

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Key Points

  • Andy Webster own goal earns Liverpool UEFA Europa League play-off first-leg win
  • Ryan Taylor free-kick salvages away draw for Newcastle in Greece
  • Return legs to be played on Thursday, August 30th