Reds Through Despite Di Natale Shock

Henderson celebrates...
Image: Link
The hard work was nearly in tatters in the dying minutes for Liverpool after Di Natale threatened to very much spoil the party but thankfully the legendary forward missed on this occasion. The Reds only needed a goal from Jordan Henderson to secure all three points and they ended the 90 minutes top of group A.

Brendan Rodgers opted for a side consisting of both youth and experience for this clash with Udinese. The back four had veteran Jamie Carragher in it whilst Suso was up front supporting Suarez. It was Luis's first away appearance in Europe for Liverpool. The big team news coming from the Italians though was that Di Natale would start from the bench.

It was a pacey start for Liverpool who knew that they had to give everything in this game in order to secure their progression. Unfortunately for the Reds though Nuri Sahin was quickly sidelined with a nose bleed, after the medical staff were unable to stem the bleeding he was replaced with Jonjo Shelvey just after the 10 minute mark. Many were calling for Shelvey to start anyway so if anything perhaps a few more smiles were on the travelling fans faces.

The forced substitution didn't affect Liverpool at all and they continued the first half as they had started. Jordan Henderson's goal came 10 minutes after the introduction of Shelvey but it was Suarez and Suso involved with the goal. A corner in saw Suarez head for goal but his off target attempt fell to the feet of Suso, a lovely placed ball left Henderson with little to do but put some power behind it and that he did, his shot found it's way past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net putting Liverpool ahead.

Liverpool were creating plenty of chances but there was still a lot to deal with from the Udinese attack. Some fans always bring up their feelings on Jamie Carragher being past it but I think they would all agree that himself and Skrtel last night formed a great partnership. I personally struggle to ever fault Carragher but that's probably just because I'm a little bit in love with him...

Late in the second half Luis Suarez nearly added to the Reds tally with an acrobatic effort but ex Liverpool keeper Padelli managed to make a save and keep his side in the game.

It was interesting watching Udinese because they knew there was nothing in them for it but pride and on occasions you could see that, certainly from some players but then others were going all guns blazing. There was a lot of counter attack too for one of the oldest sides in Italy, no real portrayal of catenaccio.

The second half couldn't provide Liverpool with another goal but Brendan's side did fantastically keeping their concentration and blocking out Udinese. Liverpool had several penetrating runs with the aid of Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique who are both wonderful when they break up the wings but no end product was found.

As the clock ticked down Liverpool brought on Raheem Sterling at 70 minutes whilst shortly after Udinese had to deal with losing a player. Pasquale received a second yellow and was given his marching orders just before the 80 minute mark.

Liverpool didn't need the help of Udinese down to 10 men but they certainly weren't going to complain about it. It seemed a simple task now, keep your head, keep the clean sheet and we're through. You have to panic though when at 85 minutes you see Di Natale waiting on the sideline.

We've seen what this man can do throughout his career and more importantly we saw what he did against us at Anfield, all he needed was half a chance and boy did he get it. In the final minute of added time the forward out of what seemed to be nowhere absolutely smashed his strike, for a moment, every Liverpool fan had stopped breathing, a split second later it had flew over the bar. Jesus Christ! That was bloody close.

The whistle blew and the Reds were now in the round of 32 able to find out their opposition on the 20th December. It was one of those games for Liverpool that was mechanical, we knew what was required and we went out and did it, it was also encouraging to see Jordan Henderson score because I feel he definitely needs it for his confidence.

Next up for Liverpool is West Ham.