Downing Strike Seals First Leg Win

Downing celebrates with Raheem...
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Liverpool had a rather shaky start in Belarus but managed to find some composure as the game went on and Stewart Downing found a goal from nowhere with his 25 yard strike. Gomel did threaten the Reds goal though on several occasions namely a bout of shots late on in the first half that Brad Jones and the defence had to deal with.

Brendan Rodgers fielded a rather strong side in his first competitive match as manager and included in that line up was Jamie Carragher. A fan favourite and legend to many, he was making his 700th appearance for the club, an amazing feat for any footballer. Due to the special occasion captain Steven Gerrard gave up his armband for this one.

Also in the starting XI was new signing Fabio Borini and Joe Cole who would be looking to prove a point.

Early on Gomel showed their intent to fluster Liverpool as they got stuck in and a foul on Stewart Downing was met with a yellow card for Klimovich.

The Reds in this match were certainly portraying the passing & possession mantra that Rodgers is known for, it wasn't exactly precise but even when the lads lost the ball there was nobody giving up to regain possession. It was certainly an improvement on some of the pre-season performances which were full of long balls. As I've been saying on Twitter though these games aren't really a yardstick in my opinion but it's still nice to analyse.

Unfortunately for Liverpool and perhaps more so for Joe Cole, the ex Chelsea man got injured in the first half and had to leave the pitch. Believed to be a hamstring problem it's more rotten luck for the midfielder. Raheem Sterling replaced him.

Alumona probably had the best chance of the game for the home side when he forced Brad Jones into a save. The forward shocked the likes of Skrtel and Carragher on a couple of occasions and at one stage even out muscled the big Slovakian.

Half time saw Brendan Rodgers make one substitution with Martin Kelly replacing Glen Johnson. Martin Kelly is probably my favourite youngster at the club and those who know me will know I have a soft spot for defenders, not only this but I feel he's a fantastic talent and could really come into his own under Rodgers.

The bigger substitution though was the introduction of Lucas Leiva. The Brazillian entered play just before the 70 minute mark and I can't describe how happy I am to see him back. Some won't agree but I feel he is instrumental to a successful Liverpool side, his task is often a thankless one but I hope this season that people wake up and smell the coffee because we're blessed to have him.

Shortly after the introduction of Lucas, Stewart Downing found his chance out of no where to put the Reds ahead. From outside the area a pure strike caught everyone off guard and had me thinking "Stewart Bloody Downing". He does pretty much nothing for a whole season yet apparently he has that in his cabinet? I am perhaps a bit harsh on Downing but am willing to be converted if he can pull out some performances this season, it was nice to see the lad score though! Haha.

Gomel faded in the second half and Liverpool had gained control of the game. 3 substitutions couldn't help the home side find the goal that they were looking for and the Reds go back to Anfield with a lead in the first leg.

It would take a massive, massive upset for anything to go wrong at Anfield and hopefully we can have a livelier performance for the home fans.

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