Gerrard adds the gloss with 33rd goal


Unirea 1 Liverpool 3 Liverpool win 4-1 on agg: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 last night.

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 Rafael Benitez will not be unduly troubled by an open affair. Gerrard’s 33rd goal in European competition provided welcome gloss.

Sorin Frunza was first to show on a sodden, heavy pitch with a dipping half-volley from 18 yards that dropped just over Jose 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. Bruno Fernandes towered above Agger from a corner and dispatched an unstoppable header past Reina.

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 area and Javier Mascherano scored with an outstanding drive from 25 yards.

Then five minutes before the interval Unirea 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 post.

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.

The 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.

UNIREA URZICENI: Arlauskis, Maftei, Galamaz, Bruno Fernandes, Bordeanu, Paduretu, Paraschiv, Apostol, Onofras, Bilasco, Frunza. Subs: Tudor, Mehmedovic, Rusescu, Nicu, Semedo, Vilana, Marinescu.

LIVERPOOL: Reina, Carragher, Agger, Skrtel, Insua, Babel, Gerrard, Lucas, Mascherano, Benayoun, Ngog. Subs: Cavalieri, Aquilani, Torres, Aurelio, Kyrgiakos, Kuyt, Kelly.

Referee: Stefan Johannesson (Sweden)