Javier Mascherano scores Liverpool’s opening goal. Photograph: Paul Childs/Action Images
Liverpool’s appetite for the Europa League has not been in question, only their longing for adventure, but three goals in Romania and a personal landmark for Steven Gerrard delivered an emphatic response to accusations of conservatism tonight. This was Unirea Urziceni’s first defeat on home soil in Europe this season and brought Gerrard the immense satisfaction of replacing Alan Shearer as the leading English goalscorer in continental combat.
The margin of Liverpool’s aggregate triumph does a disservice to the pandemonium Unirea often caused the visiting defence. But having been admonished for innate caution at Manchester City on Sunday and witnessed his team record only two goals in seven away matches before this contest, Rafael Benítez will not be unduly troubled by an open affair. Gerrard’s 33rd goal in European competition provided welcome gloss.
Unirea, in the simplest terms, were up for it from the start. Benítez had claimed this tie was a fixation for the Romanians on their return from a mid-season break and after two defeats in Rony Levy’s first two matches in charge – at Anfield and in the league against Cluj – their opening confirmed the Liverpool manager’s view. An initially subdued response from the visitors added to the concerns for Benítez.
Levy’s side displayed more attacking intent in the first two minutes in Bucharest than in more than 90 on Merseyside but the problems they caused a nervous Liverpool defence were not reflected in the scoreline. Sorin Frunza was first to show on a sodden, heavy pitch with a dipping half-volley from 18 yards that dropped just over José Reina’s crossbar. Gerrard tested Giedrius Arlauskis with a trademark drive moments later yet Liverpool did not stretch the Unirea defence again until their captain and centre-half George Galamaz limped off in the 27th minute as a consequence of his own clumsy foul on Martin Skrtel.
Galamaz departed with his side level on aggregate courtesy of the first goal of Levy’s reign. The home side found space on the left of the Liverpool defence with alarming frequency but it was the pace and accuracy of their set-piece delivery that caused constant mayhem inside the visiting area. Marius Onofras latched on to a long ball over Skrtel and was foiled inside the box by a well-timed challenge from Daniel Agger, making his 100th Liverpool appearance. With the first example of Razvan Paduretu’s impressive armoury at a dead-ball, Bruno Fernandes towered above Agger from the corner and dispatched an unstoppable header past Reina.
The loss of their first-leg advantage so early in the game helped awaken Liverpool to their task. Of the four changes Benítez made to the side that started the first leg – with Alberto Aquilani, Dirk Kuyt and Fabio Aurelio on the bench and Albert Riera overlooked completely. The performances of the relentless Lucas and Javier Mascherano showed how difficult it will be for Aquilani to secure a regular first-team role in central midfield this term.
Liverpool’s midfield core was integral to the team’s gradual improvement and only two minutes after Galamaz’s injury they equalised in superb fashion. There appeared no immediate danger when Jamie Carragher floated a deep cross to the far post but Gerrard’s header back and David Ngog’s presence induced panic in the Romanian defence. Onofras sliced a desperate clearance to the edge of his own area and Mascherano, with only one officially recognised goal for Liverpool before the game, doubled his tally with an outstanding drive beyond Arlauskis from 25 yards.
Unirea almost regained the lead courtesy of two excellent Paduretu corners, the first piercing the penalty area and deflecting inches wide of the far post off Emiliano Insua, only to fall behind to another cross from the right five minutes before the interval. This time the home defence could not deal with a Gerrard free-kick and Babel, having taken an exquisite first touch away from Skrtel, tucked a nonchalant finish inside the near post from close range.
The tie was beyond the Romanians yet they refused to divert from their adventurous game-plan and continued to cause Liverpool problems. The visitors maximised the space they were afforded and added a third when Lucas released Yossi Benayoun inside the area and his mazy run enabled Gerrard to achieve another personal milestone with a deflected shot from close range. This was the first time since the 6-1 trouncing of Hull City on 26 September that Liverpool had scored more than twice, although their night ended on a worrying note when Skrtel was carried off with a suspected broken foot after a heavy challenge from the substitute, Antonio Semedo.

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Steven Gerrard milestone adds gloss to Liverpool progress at Unirea

Javier Mascherano scores Liverpool’s opening goal. Photograph: Paul Childs/Action Images
Liverpool’s appetite for the Europa League has not been in question, only their longing for adventure, but three goals in Romania and a personal landmark for Steven Gerrard delivered an emphatic response to accusations of conservatism tonight. This was Unirea Urziceni’s first defeat on home soil in Europe this season and brought Gerrard the immense satisfaction of replacing Alan Shearer as the leading English goalscorer in continental combat.
The margin of Liverpool’s aggregate triumph does a disservice to the pandemonium Unirea often caused the visiting defence. But having been admonished for innate caution at Manchester City on Sunday and witnessed his team record only two goals in seven away matches before this contest, Rafael Benítez will not be unduly troubled by an open affair. Gerrard’s 33rd goal in European competition provided welcome gloss.
Unirea, in the simplest terms, were up for it from the start. Benítez had claimed this tie was a fixation for the Romanians on their return from a mid-season break and after two defeats in Rony Levy’s first two matches in charge – at Anfield and in the league against Cluj – their opening confirmed the Liverpool manager’s view. An initially subdued response from the visitors added to the concerns for Benítez.
Levy’s side displayed more attacking intent in the first two minutes in Bucharest than in more than 90 on Merseyside but the problems they caused a nervous Liverpool defence were not reflected in the scoreline. Sorin Frunza was first to show on a sodden, heavy pitch with a dipping half-volley from 18 yards that dropped just over José Reina’s crossbar. Gerrard tested Giedrius Arlauskis with a trademark drive moments later yet Liverpool did not stretch the Unirea defence again until their captain and centre-half George Galamaz limped off in the 27th minute as a consequence of his own clumsy foul on Martin Skrtel.
Galamaz departed with his side level on aggregate courtesy of the first goal of Levy’s reign. The home side found space on the left of the Liverpool defence with alarming frequency but it was the pace and accuracy of their set-piece delivery that caused constant mayhem inside the visiting area. Marius Onofras latched on to a long ball over Skrtel and was foiled inside the box by a well-timed challenge from Daniel Agger, making his 100th Liverpool appearance. With the first example of Razvan Paduretu’s impressive armoury at a dead-ball, Bruno Fernandes towered above Agger from the corner and dispatched an unstoppable header past Reina.
The loss of their first-leg advantage so early in the game helped awaken Liverpool to their task. Of the four changes Benítez made to the side that started the first leg – with Alberto Aquilani, Dirk Kuyt and Fabio Aurelio on the bench and Albert Riera overlooked completely. The performances of the relentless Lucas and Javier Mascherano showed how difficult it will be for Aquilani to secure a regular first-team role in central midfield this term.
Liverpool’s midfield core was integral to the team’s gradual improvement and only two minutes after Galamaz’s injury they equalised in superb fashion. There appeared no immediate danger when Jamie Carragher floated a deep cross to the far post but Gerrard’s header back and David Ngog’s presence induced panic in the Romanian defence. Onofras sliced a desperate clearance to the edge of his own area and Mascherano, with only one officially recognised goal for Liverpool before the game, doubled his tally with an outstanding drive beyond Arlauskis from 25 yards.
Unirea almost regained the lead courtesy of two excellent Paduretu corners, the first piercing the penalty area and deflecting inches wide of the far post off Emiliano Insua, only to fall behind to another cross from the right five minutes before the interval. This time the home defence could not deal with a Gerrard free-kick and Babel, having taken an exquisite first touch away from Skrtel, tucked a nonchalant finish inside the near post from close range.
The tie was beyond the Romanians yet they refused to divert from their adventurous game-plan and continued to cause Liverpool problems. The visitors maximised the space they were afforded and added a third when Lucas released Yossi Benayoun inside the area and his mazy run enabled Gerrard to achieve another personal milestone with a deflected shot from close range. This was the first time since the 6-1 trouncing of Hull City on 26 September that Liverpool had scored more than twice, although their night ended on a worrying note when Skrtel was carried off with a suspected broken foot after a heavy challenge from the substitute, Antonio Semedo.

Read the article on The Guardian

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