Luck goes Liverpool's way
Europa League review:An own-goal from Andy Webster was all that separated the two sides as Liverpool scraped a narrow victory over Hearts in tonight’s Europa League play-off at Tynecastle.
The Edinburgh side impressed for much of the tie before suffering a late blow against their Premier League visitors, who made the trip across the border without a number of star players.
The result was far more credible than Hearts’ 5-0 thrashing against Tottenham at the same venue last season and at least provides some hope ahead of the second leg at Anfield next week.
Andy Carroll failed to make the Reds squad for tonight’s clash — despite his presence at the stadium — as a question mark remained over his Liverpool future, with the €40 million striker linked with a return to Newcastle.
Boss Brendan Rodgers opted instead for the goal threat to come from Fabio Borini and Raheem Sterling. Daniel Agger also started following his red card in the 3-0 defeat at West Brom, but Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson were all left on Merseyside ahead of Sunday’s visit of champions Manchester City.
Liverpool should have been ahead just before the break when Mehdi Taouil was dispossessed by Sterling and he set up Borini for a shot that appeared net-bound but crashed off the post instead.
Hearts, bolstered by their performance so far, were not too far away after the restart when Callum Paterson’s powerful angled drive dipped just over the crossbar.
Charlie Adam then had another go at goal but he was off-target and succeeded only in smashing his shot off the advertising hoardings.
The breakthrough came with 12 minutes to go and Hearts fell behind in cruel circumstances when an excellent Martin Kelly ball from the right was missed by Borini but came off the shin of Webster and into the back of his own net.
Substitute Andy Driver could have snatched a leveller a couple of minutes from time but his effort was smothered by the goalkeeper.
Ryan Taylor spared Newcastle's blushes with a fine free-kick to give them a slight advantage as they drew 1-1 in the away leg of their tie with Atromitos.
A year and three days after he fired the Magpies to derby victory at Sunderland, he produced a set-piece of similar quality in first-half injury time to cancel out Denis Epstein's 24th-minute opener and ensure that his side returned to Tyneside knowing a victory of any description, or even a 0-0 draw, will send them through to the group stage.
That may have been less than manager Alan Pardew's ambitions before kick-off but, having made nine changes to the side which beat Tottenham 2-1 at the weekend, he saw his side put in a distinctly ordinary opening 45 minutes after which a draw was not the worst result.
Pardew, whose side face a tough trip to Chelsea on Saturday, handed striker Adam Campbell a late cameo and, in the process, made him the club's youngest European debutant at 17 years and 236 days - 64 days younger than Andy Carroll was when he played in Palermo.
Motherwellwere beaten 2-0 at home by Spanish side Levante.