- match commentary
- UEFA Europa League Qualifying
- 30 August 2012, 8:05pm
Luis Suarez's equaliser made up for Pepe Reina's error as Liverpool drew 1-1 with Hearts to win their Europa League play-off 2-1 on aggregate.
Brendan Rodgers' side dominated the second leg of their qualifying round play-off at Anfield but were punished for not adding to their 1-0 aggregate lead when Reina let a David Templeton shot squeeze through late on. With extra time looming, Liverpool rallied and Suarez made amends for missing two earlier gilt-edged chances with a fine finish in the 88th minute. It was a victory the Reds thoroughly deserved, played out against the backdrop of Friday's impending transfer deadline.
With £35million club record signing Andy Carroll conspicuous by his absence - as it transpired, finalising a loan move to West Ham - Rodgers handed a first start to 18-year-old striker Adam Morgan. With 17-year-old Raheem Sterling having featured in the two previous games, Rodgers has not been afraid to give youth a chance but there was still an experienced look to his side. Captain Steven Gerrard and star forward Suarez, both rested for the first leg at Tynecastle, were included along with the likes of Reina, Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel. With Rodgers having expressed a liking for "multi-functional" players, England winger Stewart Downing was fielded at left-back while Jordan Henderson, whose future has been the subject of speculation, was given a chance. Hearts fielded the same side that started the first leg last week with captain Marius Zaliukas overcoming a thigh injury.
The Scottish side played some neat football and were not intimidated by Liverpool's reputation. But aside from a dipping early shot wide from Callum Paterson, they lacked penetration and the hosts dominated. Suarez tricked his way into the box but his shot was blocked for a corner. Downing crossed for Morgan, who let the ball run for Gerrard but could not control the skipper's return inside. Morgan's enthusiasm saw him catch Templeton with a late tackle but he escaped unpunished and grew in confidence playing in front of a fired up Gerrard. Morgan headed back another deep cross from Downing and Suarez reached it to get a header on target but Zaliukas hacked off the line with Jamie MacDonald beaten.
Hearts appealed for a penalty when Paterson went down with Carragher in close proximity, but contact was ruled minimal. Morgan tested MacDonald with a long-range shot as Liverpool came forward again but the goalkeeper managed to clutch the ball at the second attempt as Gerrard hunted the rebound. Gerrard then weaved his way into the Hearts area to get in a shot but MacDonald blocked his shot - and the Scots breathed another sigh of relief when Morgan side-footed home in the 34th minute, only to have the effort ruled out as the ball had gone out before Suarez crossed. Liverpool maintained the pressure in the second half with Jonjo Shelvey finding space to shoot wide from 25 yards. The hosts seemed certain to take the lead in the 65th minute when Suarez, who had been goaded by the Hearts fans, timed a run perfectly to race through on MacDonald's goal.
As Manchester City's Carlos Tevez had done at the same end on Sunday, Suarez looked poised to take it round the goalkeeper and score but his touch was heavy and the chance was wasted. Suarez's finishing ability was again brought into question just moments later, when after doing the hard part to beat Zaliukas, he blasted wide. Sterling replaced Morgan to a huge ovation and immediately looked lively as he chased a first senior goal - denied only by a vital block by Daniel Grainger after one good run. MacDonald tipped over a header from Skrtel but the Slovakian was ruled offside anyway. Despite Liverpool's dominance Hearts were still only a goal away from taking the tie to extra-time. Joe Allen escaped after Dale Carrick went down under his challenge outside the area but Sterling was punished for a push on Templeton 25 yards out.
Grainger lined up a shot but his effort was deflected for a corner off the wall. That was a warning for the Reds and Hearts made them pay for their earlier profligacy six minutes from time. Templeton seized on a clearance and took a couple of touches before firing at Reina. It was well struck but the keeper should still have dealt with it, only it squirmed through his grasp. Liverpool were forced to rouse themselves for one last push and Suarez made no mistake as he burst down the left and fired low across goal from a tight angle.
FULL-TIME:Suarez saves the day for Liverpool, who scrape into the group stages of the Europa League. They were the better team tonight and wasted a hatful of chances in the second half before Reina gifted Hearts a shock lead at Anfield. The Edinburgh side were only two minutes away from forcing extra-time, but Suarez finally took one of his chances to break Hearts and send Liverpool through.
90 mins:Two minutes added on. Liverpool are on the brink of securing their place in the group stages.
88 mins: SUAREZ REPLIES FOR LIVERPOOL!Huge relief around Anfield as Suarez equalises to restore Liverpool's aggregate lead. The striker races down the left and gets a yard on Zaliukas before rifling a shot low across goal into the far corner. Tidy finish. That was much harder than the chances he spurned earlier in the half.
86 mins:Sterling gets away from Grainger down Liverpool's right before the young winger is hacked from behind. Yellow card.
84 mins: REINA CLANGER!Hearts are on level terms! Templeton cuts inside onto his right foot and unleashes a shot from about 25 yards. There's quite a bit of power behind his effort but it's straight at Reina who fumbles it over the line. Terrible mistake. We're heading to extra-time as things stand. Incredible.
84 mins:Grainger's free-kick deflects against the wall and runs out for Hearts' first corner of the night.
83 mins:This could be the best chance Hearts get to force extra-time after Sterling trips Templeton about five yards outside the Liverpool box.
81 mins:Barr gets the first yellow card of the night after a reckless challenge on Gerrard.
80 mins:Worrying moment for Liverpool fans as Taouil is afforded space to shoot after a clever back-heel by Carrick, but he skies his effort from the edge of the box.
Gaz, S Wales:"LFC will struggle. Mid-table best they can hope for. Useless."
77 mins:Both teams make a sub. Novikovas is replaced by Carrick for the visitors before Liverpool bring Borini on in place of Henderson.
75 mins:Sterling has been lively since coming on and turns inside his marker before shooting wide from 15 or so yards.
72 mins:Another Liverpool chance. Sterling is tackled by Grainger inside the box after a mazy run, before Gerrard's angled shot is saved by MacDonald's legs at the keeper's near post.
70 mins:Suarez almost gets in again but MacDonald rushes out quickly to make a brave save at the striker's feet. The Hearts keeper takes a knock to the head but he'll be fine to carry on.
68 mins:Close from Gerrard who unleashes a thunderbolt from the corner of the area which whistles just wide of the far post. Liverpool are all over Hearts but just can't score.
65 mins:Another chance for Suarez. Again he should score, but after spinning past a defender, the Uruguayan rifles his left-footed shot wide from 12 yards. Hearts are bringing Driver on for Sutton.
64 mins:Suarez wastes a glorious chance! The striker is played through on goal by Henderson and rounds MacDonald, but instead of shooting, he pauses and tries to walk the ball in, allowing the Hearts defence to get back before his eventual effort deflects onto the post. What a waste.
62 mins:Liverpool make their first sub as 18-year-old Morgan is replaced by 17-year-old Sterling, who impressed on the wing against Manchester City on the weekend.
59 mins:Couple more corners for Liverpool, but Morgan can't connect with the first one and Skrtel then directs his header off target.
57 mins:Downing, who has looked very assured at left-back, bombs down the wing and fires in a cross which flashes across the box.
54 mins:It's been one-way traffic since the break. Hearts are struggling to get out of their own half as Liverpool increase the tempo.
50 mins:Decent start to the half for Liverpool. Skrtel almost gets on the end of a Gerrard corner at the near post, before Shelvey blasts a shot a few feet over from 25 yards.
Gary, Leicester:"Good to play the youth but we need success. Catch 22."
46 mins:Liverpool get this second leg back underway and are now attacking The Kop. No subs during the break. I should also mention that as well as loaning Carroll out to West Ham, the Reds have completed the signing of German Under-18 international striker Samed Yesil from Bayer Leverkusen.
HALF-TIME:No goals at Anfield with Liverpool still 1-0 up from the first leg. The Reds have created the better chances with Suarez having a header cleared off the line and Gerrard being denied by MacDonald, but they can't find the breakthrough to bury Hearts. Join us for the second half soon.
43 mins:Carragher concedes a free-kick inside his own half but Templeton's delivery is headed clear by Shelvey. Liverpool pile bodies forward on the counter, but the promising attack breaks down when Morgan runs the ball out of play.
40 mins:Templeton tries his luck from outside the area, but his fizzing volley swerves wide and lands in The Kop. Hearts are asking a few questions as we near half-time.
37 mins:I'm just hearing that Carroll has officially joined West Ham on a season-long loan deal with an option to buy next summer. Good bit of business for Big Sam. That's the second biggest move of the day after Richard Wright's switch to Manchester City...
34 mins:Morgan thinks he's scored on his full senior debut after tapping in Suarez's cutback from the byline, but the teenager's celebrations are cut short as the ball had already crossed the line for a goal kick before Suarez set him up.
31 mins:Gerrard goes close! The Liverpool captain dances his way through a few half-hearted challenges and has just the keeper to beat, but MacDonald makes a sprawling save to deny the Reds a second goal in this tie.
28 mins:Morgan tests MacDonald with a 25-yard drive. The Hearts stopper spills the shot but gathers at the second attempt.
26 mins:Hearts appeal for a penalty after Paterson takes a tumble under a Carragher challenge, but he's told to get back to his feet by the referee. It was barely a brush. I think Carragher was actually trying to get out of the way.
23 mins:Kelly races into acres of space down Liverpool's right but the full-back overhits his cross with Suarez and Morgan lurking inside the box. Apart from Suarez's header off the line, Liverpool have struggled in the final third.
19 mins:Hearts attack down the right and a cross is knocked back to Taouil, but his tame shot from the edge of the box is easily saved by Reina.
15 mins:Liverpool go close! Downing again attacks the left flank and nutmegs Paterson before drilling in a cross. Morgan gets up early and nods it across goal to Suarez, but his header is hooked off the line after beating the keeper.
13 mins:Morgan's certainly putting himself about in these early stages but strays offside when looking to latch onto Suarez's pass.
Ben Priest, Stoke:"Hope Morgan can step up to the plate and replace the out going Carroll."
9 mins:Downing darts down the wing from left-back and whips in a lovely cross which comes off Morgan's arm. The Russian referee kindly lets play go on and Gerrard returns the ball back into the mixer to Morgan, but the 18-year-old is quickly closed down before he can pull the trigger.
7 mins:Suarez makes his first burst into the Hearts box and wins a corner which the visitors clear. Morgan is then lucky to escape a yellow card after wild challenge on Novikovas. The wide-eyed youngster certainly looks eager to impress.
5 mins:First effort of the night - but it comes at The Kop end. The ball sits up invitingly for Paterson to have a pop from 30 yards and his dipping volley isn't far off the target as Reina watches it wide.
3 mins:Liverpool have started sharply with Hearts struggling to get on the ball. The baby-faced Morgan gets his first touch of the night and wins a throw in the Hearts corner.
0 mins:Huge roar from the crowd at Anfield as Hearts get us underway, shooting towards The Kop. Can the Scottish side pull off a huge upset by overturning a 1-0 deficit? Send in your comments above.
2001:The teams are on their way out. It's a big night for 18-year-old striker Adam Morgan, who is set to make his first senior start for the Reds. He made his debut in the first leg after coming on as a 90th minute substitute. Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler has described the teenager as one of the best finishers the he has seen "in a long time". Downing is set to play at left-back which Rodgers has hinted could become a permanent position.
1945:Carroll isn't in the Liverpool squad and that's because he's in London to finalise a season-long loan move to West Ham. He should be having his medical tonight and the Reds are reportedly set to use the the funds to sign Dempsey from Fulham before tomorrow's deadline.
1930:Brendan Rodgers has named a fairly strong side for the second leg of the Europa League play-off tie against Hearts at Anfield. Suarez and Gerrard both start with Rodgers making five changes from the side that drew 2-2 with Manchester City on the weekend. Carragher, Downing, Shelvey, Henderson and Morgan replace Coates, Johnson, Lucas, Sterling and Borini. Hearts make one change as Templeton, who was suspended for their goalless draw against Aberdeen, comes in for Driver.
Tom Gledhill will be in the hotseat later on so send your predictions and pre-match comments by clicking in the box above.