Young Boys 3 Liverpool 5: Lessons as Jonjo Shelvey seals thrilling victory
Young Boys 3 Liverpool 5: What did we learn as Brendan Rodgers' side won a thrilling Europa League encounter in Berne?
Liverpool’s top scorer in Europe strikes again
Liverpool may be struggling in the Premier League but on the European front, the Reds headed into their Group A opener unbeaten in five games, and without a loss in four matches under Brendan Rodgers. In what will be a tough group with more testing fixtures against Russia’s cash-rich Anzhi Makhachkala and Udinese to come, the five-time European Cup winners made an ideal start. Immediately assured in possession, which is a common trait for a Rodgers’ side, the visitors held onto possession for a sustained period before Stewart Downing’s eventual cross sparked confusion in Young Boys’ area. Christoph Spycher’s attempted header clear ricocheted of the head of Juhani Ojala and past the Swiss side’s goalkeeper Marco Wölfli. It was the first goal of the 2012-13 Europa League season – excluding the qualification rounds – and also the fastest own goal in the history of the competition. Furthermore, it was the second time Liverpool have been the beneficiaries of a defender’s misfortune in Europe following Andy Webster’s mishap at Hearts.
Carragher & Coates doesn’t work
Jamie Carragher and Sebastian Coates have been regular deputies for first-choice centre-half pairing Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel over the past two seasons, usually in the Europa League and domestic dead rubbers. Carragher is edging towards the end of his career and despite his diminishing agility, he compensates for Coates’ limited experience in the Premier League and Europe. But the issue exposed in Berne is the pair’s lack of pace, and as a result, neither can come to the aid of their partner if an emergency sweeping job is needed. In the fifth minute, Raul Bobadilla chased down a through-ball, beating both the offside trap and Carragher, with the striker only denied by the sharp reflexes of Jones. Shortly after, a rapid Young Boys counter-attack exposed Liverpool’s cumbersome duo and Alexander Farenerud was denied a shot on goal by Carragher’s block – the home side demanded a penalty award but the veteran avoided punishment. The Swiss side were getting closer and, unsurprisingly, an equaliser came in the 39th minute. Bobadilla outmuscled Carragher, with the loose ball creating confusion between Jose Enrique and Jones – Raphaël Nuzzolo was on hand to lift his effort into the roof of the net. There was more misery for the 34-year-old as he bounced off Bobadilla again as Gonzalo Zarate finished a sweeping move to put Young Boys 3-2 ahead in the 63rd minute.
Liverpool’s young boys endure mixed fortunes
With half an eye on a must-win Premier League fixture against bitter rivals Manchester United on Sunday, Rodgers brought a youthful looking 20-man squad to Berne. The average was just 21, and the Liverpool manager showed no hesitation in his team selection. Dani Pacheco (21) returned to the first-team after a two-year absence, while highly-rated Spanish starlet Suso (18) also had a chance to shine alongside Jordan Henderson (22) and Nuri Sahin (24). In addition, Andre Wisdom and Oussama Assaidi were handed their Liverpool debuts for the Group A opener. Henderson and Sahin were economical with possession, looking to probe Young Boys’ rearguard, although their passing lacked penetration at times. Pacheco’s work-rate will have impressed Rodgers but he offered no real threat to the home defence, with the lack of an out-and-out striker continuing to haunt the Merseyside outfit. Suso, who along with Raheem Sterling, has been billed as a future star for Liverpool, showcased his silky skills with a sublime slalom past four opposition defenders before firing a low cross across Wölfli’s area. But it was Wisdom who stood out. The English youngster, who is a Under-17 World Cup winner, was more than comfortable at right-back, joining a litany of promising defenders in that position: Martin Kelly, Jack Robinson and John Flanagan. Wisdom capped his debut with a thumping 40th-minute header to put the visitors back in front at half-time. His evening was somewhat spoiled when he failed to prevent Ojala’s levelling the score at 2-2 but it was a promising start to his Anfield career.
Shelvey papers over the cracks
Young Boys were supposed Group A weak links with sterner tests against Anzhi Makhachkala and Udinese to come, but Rodgers’ side made hard work of securing three points. Despite their obvious superior quality and, at times calculated and patient passing, defensive errors allowed Young Boys to remain competitive. Rodgers’ £10m summer signing Fabio Borini was introduced with 28 minutes remaining, and the Italian played a hand in Coates leveller, distracting a covering opponent as the Uruguayan’s header crept into the net. Jonjo Shelvey was the next to take to the Berne pitch, and a vibrant Liverpool move saw an exchange of short, snappy passes between Downing and Henderson, before the former Charlton Athletic star finished with composure. In the 87th minute, the Under-21 England star capped a superb 20-minute cameo with a solo effort worthy of sealing three points from a thrilling match. For a team starved of goals, particularly in the Premier League, Rodgers would have expected three goals to be sufficient to win their opening group game. There’s plenty of work to be done and despite the negatives, Liverpool’s goals, crisp passing and character to come from behind will all be plus points heading into the United encounter.