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Liverpool's reality check as Europa League football makes an unwelcome visit to Anfield

19 Feb 2010 12:46:56

Liverpool's reality check as Europa League football makes an unwelcome visit to Anfield

Follow thedailybung on Twitter. Trust us, there's literally nothing better on the rest of the internet ... THE DAILY BUNG'S LUNCHTIME HEADLINES  Related ArticlesNemanja Vidic tired of transfer talkBenitez laments missed chancesLiverpool 1 Unirea Urziceni 0Fulham 2 Shakhtar Donetsk 1Europa League tablesEuropa League fixturesDavid Gold has proved that smut peddlers can be good Samaritans too. The jazz mag impresario is willing to lend Portsmouth £10m to stop them going bust if they want it. An act of altruism on the West Ham owner's part, of course, and nothing to do with trying to ensuring there are still three teams standing below West Ham come the end of season reckoning. -- Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic has become bored of all the transfer talk linking him with a move to Real Madrid or AC Milan - several weeks after the rest of us. But at least he's got there in the end. 'There is no substance to the rumours,' insists the big Serb. That's put an end to the matter then, eh? Eh? Oh, right. -- And with Craig Bellamy often credited with the ability to start a fight in an empty room, kicking one off with him and a hot headed Italian fancy dan like Roberto Mancini has apparently proved child's play for the firebrand Welshman. According to the Sun, the Manchester City pair had a heated exchange that ended with Mancini telling Bellamy to do one for three months until they had both cooled down. --- AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH If Liverpool's fall from grace in European competition had their fans digging out dusty copies of the Rough Guide to European Football to get a handle on last night's opponents and wondering if the whole embarrassing business of Europa League football was beneath them, maybe today the fans of Unirea Urziceni are checking to see if it was actually the real Liverpool they had heard so much about who huffed and puffed against them to little good effect and asking if Rafa Benitez's side are really worth a place even at Europe's second table. The Romanian Champions, in the middle of a winter break and without competitive football for the best part of three months, prepared for their match at Anfield with a warm up against Northwich Victoria. They struggled to a 1-0 win over the non-league side. It wasn't a bad dry run in the end. Liverpool, once they recovered from the shame of Champions League elimination, were supposed to dust themselves down and cut through matches against Europe's lesser lights with rapier like ruthlessness. Slumming it for a while, the competition was theirs for the taking, a confidence booster in a troubled season and a shinny prize at the end of it. On this evidence the inconvenience of Thursday night football won't last much longer. It could have been much different. Anfield roused itself before the game and Liverpool came out of the blocks with purpose and intent. Had Steven Gerrard converted his presentable chance in the first minute perhaps the floodgates would have opened. He, and so they, didn't. Liverpool dominated possession and territory as they have done so often this season but as the chances dried up the Romanians, showing about as much ambition as a pot smoking nihilist teenager, shut up shop without breaking sweat. Two banks of white shirts blocked Liverpool's path to goal and the home side lacked the guile or invention to pick a way through it until David Ngog spared everyone's blushes with a late winner. Liverpool were the better team. But in this competition that is supposed to be a given. The quiet and resignation that settled over Anfield after the initial bombast had died down spoke of a despondency that narrow wins over teams like Unirea has no chance of lifting. Benítez and Gerrard both observed, correctly, that the second leg may well suit them better, what with the Romanians having to actually come out and play, but European nights in this part of the world are not supposed to be this way. With such a rich history in continental competition, the poverty of last night was hard to bare, even painful to watch. The soothing balm of a trophy at the end of the season isn't going to come easy. If it comes at all. --- Follow thedailybung on Twitter. Trust us, there's literally nothing better on the rest of the internet ...


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