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.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam