Liverpool’s fringe players got their chance to impress tonight, and mostly took it, with a strong goalless draw away to Napoli in the Europa League on Thursday night.
Before the game, extra policing had to be put on to protect Liverpool’s fans after a string of assaults, including two stabbings in the city on Wednesday night.
With Roy Hodgson faced with multiple injury problems and Sunday’s must-win encounter in the Premier League with Blackburn at Anfield, he fielded an under-strength side against the Serie A side in Naples.
18-year-old strike Jonjo Shelvey was given the nod to partner David N’gog up front, whilst Milan Jovanovic and Ryan Babel provided width. Christian Poulsen and Jay Spearing marshalled the Reds midfield, whilst there was also a start for Martin Kelly.
It was a game of little chances, those that did mostly falling to the Italians.
Edison Cavani showed his strength and pace to beat Carragher before providing a cross to Marek Hamsik who’s scuffed shot was cleared off the line by Paul Konchesky on the stroke of half time.
Jamie Carragher was taken off at half-time and replaced by Sotirios Kyrgiakos, with Hodgson hoping to keep the vice-captain fit for Sunday.
Cavani then saw a chance of his own saved well by Pepe Reina in the second half, whilst Konchesky continued to get himself in front of shots.
Liverpool chances fell to Babel who was put through on goal late on, but slid his shot weakly towards the goalkeeper and N’gog had a powerful effort on goal blocked by Salvatore Aronica.
Shelvey had an impressive game, working very hard and getting in some good positions. Special mention also to Spearing who seems to be finding his game this season.
The result leaves Liverpool top of Group K after three games with 5 points.
Hodgson’s men now go back to Merseyside for Sunday’s game against Blackburn with a strong away performance behind them.
Napoli: De Sanctis, Aronica, Dossena, Campagnaro, Cannavaro, Pazienza, Maggio (Zuniga 75), Hamsik (Sosa 85), Gargano (Yebda 83), Cavani, Lavezzi.
Substitutes: Lezzo, Grava, Zuniga, Cribari, Yebda, Sosa, Dumitru.
Liverpool: Reina, Konchesky (Aurelio 65), Carragher (Kyrgiakos 46), Kelly, Skrtel, Spearing, Poulsen, Shelvey, Jovanovic, Babel (Cole 77), Ngog.
Substitutes: Jones, Aurelio, Kyrgiakos, Wilson, Cole, Maxi, Eccleston.