The Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, praised match-winner Jordan Henderson for the goal against Udinese that put the club through to the last 32 of the Europa League but accepted the victory was by the finest of margins.
Henderson’s first European goal, and only his third in any competition since his £16m 2011 transfer from Sunderland, put Liverpool top of Group A but there was almost a sting in the tail. Udinese, who had Giovanni Pasquale sent off 10 minutes from the end, almost snatched the draw which would have sent Liverpool out with the last kick of the game when captain Antonio Di Natale blasted over.
Young Boys’ victory over Anzhi meant Liverpool had to win to progress and Henderson’s first-half goal meant the visitors won the group.
Liverpool’s trouble this season has been a reliance on Luis Suarez, playing his first European away match for the club this season, to provide the goals. Rodgers has called for others to contribute and in recent weeks Daniel Agger, Jonjo Shelvey, Jose Enrique and even Joe Cole have chipped in. Tonight it was the turn of Henderson.
“He is a great lad and works hard and has come in over the last month and made a good contribution to the team,” said Rodgers of the midfielder, who has been a fringe player for most of the season.
“It was a very good finish and he was unfortunate not to get a second goal as the keeper made a wonderful save. He has that quality to arrive in the box and he has a finish in him so I am delighted for him and his hard work is paying off.”
Had Di Natale scored the inquest would have begun on where it had gone wrong for Rodgers but the miss kept the European campaign on track. “It is that moment when there is literally 20 seconds left and we’ve given away the ball. It was very close,” admitted the Northern Irishman.
“Hopefully it is a sign we have a little bit of luck going our way because maybe a couple of months back that would have gone in and we would be out of the competition. There was no margin for error tonight, I felt we had to win the game because we were in a difficult group against good teams.”
Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin, whose side had already been eliminated before kick-off, was pleased with the performance. “I want to thank my team because they have gone out of the competition with dignity and their heads held high,” he said.
Man of the match Skrtel.
Match rating 6/10.
Referee D Gomes (Por).