Zenit St. Petersburg 2-0 Liverpool
Europa League, Last 32, First Leg
Thursday, 14th February, 2013
Goals: Hulk (70), Semak (72)
“We had the chances to score and we were defensively solid so to concede the goals in the last 20 minutes was very disappointing.”
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers could quite well have been describing the 2-0 defeat at the hands of West Brom four days earlier, having witnessed a carbon copy as his side were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal once again.
Removing Daniel Sturridge from this Liverpool side and playing Luis Suarez back through the middle has opened wounds that had been healed by Sturridge’s arrival in January. Suarez was guilty of missing several very good chances before the Reds crumbled and conceded twice in three minutes.
One behind, Liverpool rarely look capable of getting back into the game under Rodgers and this looked far from happening on a cold night in Russia. The first goal was key and it arrived from the boot of powerful Hulk, from distance, via a slight deflection off Skrtel, into the top corner of Pepe Reina’s goal.
Reina was called into action during an open start to the game, making two superb saves. Suarez at the other end going close. 0-0 at half-time could easily have been 2-2.
The second half saw an already poor pitch made Mansfield’s look like Wembley, Glen Johnson’s surging run was Liverpool’s best chance.
Liverpool actually looked more comfortable in the second half, controlling the game better and their shape. But Hulk’s goal knocked the proverbial stuffing out of them and Semak doubled the lead within minutes, sneaking in at the back post after nobody closed down the low cross.
The result, and lack of an away goal, leave Zenit as firm favourites ahead of the return leg at Anfield next week.
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Carragher, Enrique, Allen, Henderson, Gerrard, Sterling (Lucas 78), Suarez, Downing.
Subs not used: Jones, Coates, Wisdom, Shelvey, Borini, Suso.
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo