Hodgson takes heart from point as Reds struggle

Utrecht 0 Liverpool 0

Peering over the girders of the ground in Utrecht is a tower block that has the word "conclusion" in big red neon letters running along its side. It was hard to know what conclusion to come to here last night once the final whistle sounded on an ordinary performance by Liverpool that produced a very good result.

Bill Shankly, having seen the Ajax of Johan Cruyff destroy Liverpool 5-1 in the Amsterdam fog in 1966, pronounced the Dutch champions, "the most defensive bloody team I've ever seen." Roy Hodgson's conclusion was that this was, "a good point against a good team."

"It wasn't a dull 0-0; they were committed as we knew they would be," added the Liverpool manager. "It was a good point to take back to Liverpool but, if we had taken any more, Utrecht would have felt very hard done by."

Despite what was often a dull, ragged and unimpressive display by the biggest team to have come to the Galgenwaard, Hodgson is sitting more comfortably in the Europa League than the Premier League. Steaua Bucharest's 3-3 draw with Napoli gives Liverpool a two-point cushion at the top of the group and, as he stared into a television camera he observed that "we have done better than Celtic."

In a sense, Hodgson was right. Utrecht, one of the Netherlands' great university cities, may be one of the most genteel places Liverpool have ever come to play football. However the Galgenwaard is the place where they once placed the gallows in Utrecht and, as they proved when eviscerating Celtic here in August, they are a dangerous proposition who probably should have won this match.

They had a goal disallowed, saw Raul Meireles, who was one of Liverpool's better players, clear a looping ball that came off Michael Silberbauer's chest off the line, while Jacob Mulenga almost sprinted through to score when the game momentarily stopped with most players expecting the referee to blow for a foul on Ricky van Wolfswinkel.

At the end Utrecht celebrated as if it were a victory and completed a lap of honour, while those who had travelled from Merseyside prepared to make for the trains to Amsterdam still waiting for the show of strength to signal what the new Anfield regime is capable of.

It has to be more than this. Liverpool are a side that by their manager's admission plays without wingers and looked to have exhausted its repertoire of ideas long before the half-time whistle. Glen Johnson looked utterly uncertain, perhaps the third-best right-back on the pitch, given that Martin Kelly, who was on the opposite side of the defence, is a specialist in that position. Hodgson noted that Utrecht's crossing was sometimes exceptionally dangerous and often Liverpool seemed stretched without actually cracking.

As ever, the focus was on Fernando Torres. Sometimes, he looked half-engaged and then, when Mircea Nesu under-hit a back pass, he reacted like a cat pouncing on a butterfly. It just rolled too far. Of the two concrete opportunities that fell his way after the interval, one finished halfway up the stand behind Michel Vorm's goal, the other after a fine pull-back from Dirk Kuyt was well saved at the near post. By no means was it a commanding display; but there were flashes of the old magic lost somewhere in South Africa. At the end, the striker seemed to limp off to the physio, an action unnoticed by his manager. "I don't spend every minute of every waking hour watching Fernando Torres," he said with a half-smile. There are, however, some who do.

For the Galgenwaard, the perfect result would have been for Utrecht to win 2-1 and Kuyt to have scored against the club that helped to make him. He was given a standing ovation for simply running on to the pitch. It was a display of very deep and very touching affection, the kind of love for a departed player that seems to exist very rarely in Kuyt's adopted country.

Utrecht (4-1-3-2): Vorm; Cornelisse, Wuytens, Schut, Nesu; Lensky (Nijholt, 82); Duplan (Maguire, 69), Silberbauer, Mertens; Van Wolfswinkel, Mulenga. Substitutes not used Sinouh (gk), Demouge, Van der Maarel, Keller, Vorstermans.

Liverpool (4-1-3-2): Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Kelly; Poulsen; Meireles, Lucas, Cole (Maxi, 81); Kuyt, Torres. Substitutes not used Jones (gk), Jovanovic, Kyrgiakos, Babel, Ngog, Spearing.

Man of the match Mertens

Referee D Gomes (Portugal)

Attendance 23,662

Match rating 6/10

Group K

Results so far Liverpool 4 Steaua Bucharest 1, Napoli 0 Utrecht 0; Utrecht 0 Liverpool 0, Steaua Bucharest 3 Napoli 3.

Liverpool's remaining fixtures 21 Oct Napoli (a); 4 Nov Napoli (h); 2 Dec Steaua Bucharest (a); 15 Dec Utrecht (h).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
News
Williams says: 'The reason I got jobs was because they would blow the budget on the big guys - but they only had to pay me the price of a cup of tea'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
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.

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee