Reds Europa League mission accomplished
IN THE city where legend has it Dracula resided, Liverpool’s understudies finally showed their teeth.
It wasn’t pretty and it won’t live long in the memory but Roy Hodgson left Bucharest with what he came for. This was mission accomplished. Job Done.
A point ensured the Reds will progress from Group K as winners and passports can be safely stored away until the Europa League knockout stage gets underway in mid-February.
The final group game at home to Utrecht in a fortnight can be treated as little more than a training exercise.
This was a test of character and a shadow Liverpool side passed it. One high profile English team may have embarrassed itself yesterday but this one refused to be beaten by Eastern European opposition.
Of course it could have been even better. Having gone ahead courtesy of Milan Jovanovic’s first half header and soaked up plenty of Steaua pressure, Pepe Reina’s blunder gifted the hosts an equaliser.
How ironic that on the night Liverpool’s fringe players were in the spotlight, one of their most experienced and talented players should flounder.
But Reina, so often the hero, will be quickly forgiven for his late contribution to the festive DVD of goalkeeping bloopers.
The closing stages were safely negotiated to ensure the journey made by the 200 committed souls in the away end wasn’t in vain.
There was certainly no doubt where Hodgson’s priorities lie as he made no fewer than 10 changes from Sunday’s defeat at Spurs.
Premier League points come before European success and with Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher both sidelined the boss was loath to risk his star names ahead of Monday’s Anfield meeting with Aston Villa.
Only stand-in skipper Reina retained his place from that heartbreaking setback in the capital.