Friday 26 October 2012
Liverpool and Newcastle United boosted their prospects of progressing from the UEFA Europa League group stage with narrow victories, while Tottenham Hotspur were held to another draw in Slovenia.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers praised Stewart Downing for a "wonderful strike" that secured a narrow victory for Liverpool against FC Anji Makhachkala in the UEFA Europa League.
"It was a wonderful strike from Stewart – It was just something to help his confidence"
Downing struck from the edge of the penalty area on 53 minutes to score the only goal of the game for a victory that took the Reds two points clear at the top of Group A with three matches played.
Rodgers determined that the winner – Liverpool's 550th goal in European competition – would serve to boost the confidence of the former Aston Villa winger.
"It was a wonderful strike from Stewart," said Rodgers, who had redeployed Downing at left-back at the interval. "It's been difficult for him since he has been here. It was just something to help his confidence.
"The Kop recognise it was a wonderful goal at that end. If you get that applause it means a lot. I hope that will do him well going forward. He has the qualities to play in that position."
The 1-0 victory against a side that was on a 14-match unbeaten sequence came five days after Liverpool's first Barclays Premier League victory of the campaign – a success by the same scoreline against Reading – and is a timely boost for the club ahead of Sunday’s Merseyside derby at Goodison Park.
"I've said before that the only way you can prove [yourself] to the manager is to go out on the field and play well and get goals and assists [and] hopefully I will give him food for thought,” said Downing.
"Glen [Johnson] was struggling with a bit of a niggle at half-time – you don't want to risk him – but to go to left-back is no problem. I enjoyed it and that's where I got the goal from so it was a good night all round."
Liverpool: Brad Jones; Glen Johnson (Raheem Sterling 46), Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Andre Wisdom; Nuri Sahin, Jonjo Shelvey (Joe Allen 79); Oussama Assaidi, Steven gerrard, Stewart Downing; Luis Suarez
It was also a good night for Newcastle United, whose win at Club Brugge left them well-placed to progress from Group D and left Alan Pardew purring over the performance of Sammy Ameobi.
"Sammy Ameobi is a creator, he causes havoc, he's got fantastic technique and he can play four positions"
The 20-year-old combined with elder brother Shola, a half-time substitute, before putting Gabriel Obertan through to unleash a fierce angled drive that left goalkeeper Bojan Jorgacevic with no chance, and Pardew was delighted with Ameobi Jr's contribution.
"When you see great young players coming through it kinds of buoys your spirits and Sammy's got a big future at this club," said Pardew said. "He's a creator, he causes havoc, he's got fantastic technique and he can play four positions."
Newcastle had controlled the first half without finding an end product as Papiss Cisse was twice denied by Jorgacevic who saved a header and a shot.
Meanwhile, the Belgian Juniper League leaders' liveliest player, 20-year-old Belgian Maxime Lestienne, twice came close before the break, and passed up the chance to equalise in the second half when Lior Refaelov forced a save from Steve Harper.
Newcastle: Steve Harper; Davide Santon, James Perch, Steven Taylor, Shane Ferguson (Yohan Cabaye 81); Vernon Anita (Shola Ameobi 46), Gael Bigirimana, Cheick Tiote; Gabriel Obertan, Papiss Cisse, Sammy Ameobi (Fabio Coloccini 73)
Andre Villas-Boas believes his side still have every prospect of qualifying from an "open group" despite Tottenham Hotspur succumbing to their third successive UEFA Europa League draw against NK Maribor.
"Falque's performance made the link-up play better for us – he is certainly someone we can count on"
The visitors were indebted to Gylfi Sigurdsson for scoring a second-half equaliser after they had fallen behind to Robert Beric's opener three minutes before the interval, but the Portuguese manager insists his side can still progress from a section in which they now lie third.
"The group is completely open," said Villas-Boas. "What we face now is two games at home and I think we are in a good position. We are in third position. We have three games to play, there are nine points to play for. It is very tight.
"It is obviously not the full result we wanted bearing in mind the draw between Lazio and Panathinaikos, but certainly we will take a point," he added. "The second half was extremely good, the first half was not so good. We came back into the game, which is pleasant to see again and it is good for us to bounce back."
After a lacklustre opening 45 minutes, Iago Falque was introduced in place of Andros Townsend and the Spanish winger gave the visitors some much-needed impetus including a cross which was finished off by Sigurdsson, who pounced on a rebound to make amends for an earlier miss, after Jermain Defoe's strike had been cleared off the line.
"He had an extremely good game," said Villas-Boas of his substitute. "His performance made the link-up play better for us. He is certainly someone we can count on."
Tottenham will hope to have Gareth Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor back for their Barclays Premier League visit to Southampton on Sunday.
Tottenham: Hugo Lloris; Kyle Walker, Jan Vertonghen, Steven Caulker, Kyle Naughton; Tom Huddleston, Sandro (Jake Livermore 84), Andros Townsend (Falque 46); Aaron Lennon, Gylfi Sigurdsson (Clint Dempsey 75); Jermain Defoe
Liverpool 1-0 Anji Makhachkala
BSC Young Boys 3-1 Udinese
Club Brugge 0-1 Newcastle United
CS Maritimo 1-1 Bordeaux
Panathinaikos 1-1 Lazio
NK Maribor 1-1 Tottenham