Young Boys make too many mistakes
Europa League round-up:Liverpool escaped with their 41-year unbeaten record against Swiss teams intact but a sloppy defensive performance almost cost them in their 5-3 win over Young Boys in Group A of the Europa League. That Brendan Rodgers’ second-string side, which included a trio of debutants — two of whom were teenagers — scored five times was something of a surprise considering the struggles of the first-team this season.
They were given an early helping hand thanks to a comical own goal from Juhani Ojala and 19-year-old Andre Wisdom scored on his debut after Raphael Nuzzolo had equalised following a Jose Enrique error. But Ojala then headed in at the right end and Gonzalo Zarate made it 3-2 before the match turned around again when Sebastian Coates headed in and then Jonjo Shelvey scored twice.
It was the first time Liverpool had scored more than once in eight European away matches and their first in any group stage game away from home since beating PSV in December 2008.
The comedy started in the fourth minute when the Young Boys’ defence got themselves in a tangle for no discernible reason. Stewart Downing’s right-wing cross did not look to be threatening but Dusan Veskovac headed the ball back across goal and his central defensive partner Ojala headed in.
That was only the beginning as Wisdom’s inexperience at this level caught him out when he went to fetch the ball thinking he had a throw-in. While he was off the pitch a ballboy tossed another to Young Boys, who quickly restarted, leaving Wisdom — more accustomed to the reserve team where you fetch your own ball — running back on still carrying the ball he had chased.
But if that error was down to inexperience, Jose Enrique’s decision to dribble away from the hands of Brad Jones in the 38th minute was bad judgement as he passed straight to Nuzzolo — who drilled in a first-time shot before Jones had time to recover properly.
Wisdom, however, came to his defensive colleague’s rescue two minutes later when he produced a huge leap to head home Nuri Sahin’s corner. The goal was Liverpool’s 200th in this competition since they first took part in 1967-68.
The second half was less than 10 minutes old when Raul Bobadilla was given far too much room on the right to pick out the run of Ojala to head in at the far post. When Bobadilla outmuscled both Carragher and Suso, another debutant, to send Zarate down right the Argentinian neatly dinked over Jones.
Liverpool needed a quick response and it came within four minutes as Coates’ looping header crept in at the far post with substitute Fabio Borini claiming a touch which was barely — if at all — there. Borini had a more decisive influence on the next as he picked out Jordan Henderson’s run and the midfielder cut the ball back for Shelvey to fire home — and the same player added a similar second late on.
In Portugal, Shola Ameobi came agonisingly close to firing Newcastleto an opening victory as the woodwork and Maritimokeeper Romain Salin combined to thwart him. The 30-year-old, captaining a much-changed side at the Estadio dos Barreiros, hit both the post and the crossbar and saw Salin block another effort on a frustrating evening for the Magpies in Madeira as they were held to a 0-0 draw.
Midfielder Dan Gosling was also denied by an upright after Alan Pardew’s men bounced back from a less than impressive start to their Group D campaign. They were indebted to keeper Rob Elliot, playing just his second game for the club, for two early saves, and he got down well 20 minutes from time to keep out dangerman Sami’s skidding strike, but he also needed the help of the bar when full-back Davide Santon headed Valentin Roberge’s late header against it.
But having gone into the game with only two members of what would be considered his strongest starting line-up — Steven Taylor and Santon — Pardew will have been the happier manager with a point banked and key men rested ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash with Norwich.
Newcastle turned in a poor first-half performance at Everton on Monday evening before staging a concerted fightback, and they were little more impressive during the early stages of tonight’s encounter. They might have been behind with less than two minutes on the clock when David Simao found space on the left to send in a dangerous cross which was only just too strong for Heldon as he slid in.
But having endured a difficult start to the game, the Magpies gradually started to find their feet and went close to the opening goal on four different occasions inside four minutes. Gael Bigirimana saw his 27th-minute corner tipped over by keeper Romain Salin as it threatened to dip under the crossbar and then French midfielder Romain Amalfitano had a goal-bound volley blocked after connecting with another Bigirimana corner.
But it was the woodwork which came to the Madeira side’s rescue twice in quick succession with the Premier League side turning the screw. Central defender Mike Williamson found the ball at his feet inside the penalty area and, when his shot was deflected, Shola Ameobi dived in to head the ball towards goal where it hit the post and was bundled away by the recovering Salin, who had initially been wrong-footed.
Gosling was then denied by the opposite upright on the half-hour when his 25-yard drive thumped off the foot of the post with Salin beaten. And Ameobi was desperately unfortunate not to score just two minutes after the restart when he capitalised on an error by Joao Guilherme to charge into the box and side-step Roberge before curling a shot past Salin, but on to the bar.
The home side perhaps should have gone ahead with 59 minutes gone when Sami ran into space on the left and crossed for substitute Fidelis to blast a first-time effort just past the post with Elliot helpless. But Ameobi went close at the other end five minutes later, forcing another decent save from Salin after bamboozling Guilherme with his turn on to Santon’s pass.
And the Magpies enjoyed a major escape eight minutes from time when Roberge connected with Rafael Miranda’s flick-on and Santon somehow managed to smuggle the ball away with the help of the goal-frame, and Elliot saved unconvincingly from substitute Goncalo at the death.