Friday, February 18, 2011

Sparta Prague 0-0 Liverpool: Report

Goalkeeper Jose Reina was Liverpool's best - and busiest - player with a few good saves, but even then he was not severely tested.The visitors' play was disjointed and lacked a cutting edge but crucially they kept a clean sheet and Dalglish will be hopeful next week's home leg, when captain Steven Gerrard should be available after a groin problem, will provide greater satisfaction. In the biting cold of the Generali Arena the game never really got going and although Liverpool tried to gain control by holding on to possession they never managed to make any ground by doing so.

In fact, it was Sparta who created the few chances, most of which were created from wide positions as full-backs Ondrej Kusnir, on the right, and the particularly effective Manuel Pamic advanced at regular intervals.
With Glen Johnson, back in his more familiar right-sided role, and Danny Wilson, a centre-back playing on the left, rarely getting the opportunity to go forward.Pamic gave Johnson problems in the first half and almost capitalised to great effect in the 17th minute.

Martin Abena slid a pass inside the England defender and Pamic raced into the penalty area to drill a low shot from a narrow angle which Reina parried to safety.

Even the normally unflappable Spain international was not immune to the general untidiness which littered Liverpool's play and when he could only parry Kusnir's deep cross into the path of Pamic he was relived to see the defender blaze over with his weaker right foot.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos was next to the Reds' rescue, putting in a diving block to halt former Reading midfielder Marek Matejovsky's shot as it travelled goalwards.

With a lack of central midfielders, having left Gerrard and expectant father Christian Poulsen at home, the last thing Dalglish needed was to see Fabio Aurelio forced off with an injury in the first half.

It prompted a reshuffle with Raul Meireles withdrawn from his advanced role, from where he had scored five goals in six previous matches, to allow Joe Cole to come on.

The second half was little different from what had gone before except for Liverpool enjoying slightly more possession.

But the successful passing game which had been so evident in their six-match unbeaten Barclays Premier League run never really got going.

Sparta continued to pose the greater threat, however, and Leony Kweuke headed just wide from range on the hour.
Liverpool's best chance came with 20 minutes to go when Lucas Leiva's lofted pass picked out Johnson on the right of the penalty area.

He weaved inside but instead of shooting with his left foot - with which he has scored some screamers from range - he opted for the outside of his right and poked the ball past the far post.

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