Di Natale's tricks for Udinese make Liverpool's Europa League route tricky

Liverpool 2 Udinese 3

Anfield

For the first time since he came to manage Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers looked angry. He might have talked about a comeback inspired by Luis Suarez, who stretched every sinew to force an equaliser. He could have remarked how Antonio di Natale had been applauded off from every corner of Anfield after a performance of rare brilliance that swung the night Udinese's way. He might even have noted how Stewart Downing had met the challenge he had laid down to add some fight to his talent.

Instead, he said he was tired of having to score two or three goals to win a game. He was tired of losing contests Liverpool should, by rights, be winning. He was tired of defending he described as "lazy" and "sloppy".

"It's quite straightforward. We were very, very good in the first half and the problem we had in the first 15 or 20 minutes of the second half had been with us since the start of the season.

"We were much the better side and we lost, I thought we had moved on from that," said Rodgers, who has still only won a single game at Anfield – and that against Gomel, the nonentities from Belarus.

"We had total control but we were so loose in the second half it was frightening. Yes, we recovered in the last 20 minutes but it was too late. We were too lazy in our play, too sloppy. There is no other way to describe it. We didn't do the dirty bits. You can't keep on having to score two or three goals to win games."

His players proved only that the Europa League matters to them – not least Suarez, who saw his shot blocked on the line by his own player, Jonjo Shelvey and then curled in a free-kick beneath the Kop. It was, like Shelvey's own header from Downing's superlative cross that opened the scoring, not nearly enough.

If Liverpool are to qualify from the group, they will need at least one win from the monied mercenaries of Anzhi Makhachkala. Anzhi's most precious signing, Samuel Eto'o, has won three European Cups but he will need to impress here to match the performance of Di Natale, a man who has won nothing except the undying affection of those who came from Italy's north east, carrying a banner with his face upon it that they held up like an icon. His battle with Jamie Carragher was a contest between two wonderful footballers in the twilight of their respective careers.

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 

Di Natale had walked around Anfield before training on Wednesday night on the grounds that, approaching 35, he might not appear here again. Last night, he left some memories of his own.

The first was a free-kick that was met on the run by Medhi Benatia and brilliantly saved at full stretch by Pepe Reina on a night he equalled Ray Clemence's record of 80 European games by a Liverpool keeper. Reina's form has been questionable this season but that save was not.

Then, with the second half 30 seconds old, Di Natale took a square ball from the newly-introduced substitute, Andrea Lazzari, fractionally before Sebastian Coates and drove it into the net in front of his own supporters.

In the first half, Coates had narrowly avoided scoring Liverpool's opener with a muscular header from Downing's corner. Later, he was to score at the Anfield Road End, although this time it was past his own keeper as he went to deflect Lazzari's free-kick.

Then, Giovanni Pasquale sent a shot screeching into the corner of Reina's net after Di Natale had juggled the ball outrageously in the Liverpool area, another memory that lingered, although the one that would have stuck with Rodgers was how Antonio di Natale, whose name translates as "Tony Christmas", was allowed so many gifts.

Man of the match Di Natale.

Match rating 8/10.

Referee S Johannesson (Swe).

Attendance 40,092.

Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing