Liverpool stroll through as takeover talk dominates

Liverpool 2 Rabotnicki 0 <i>(Liverpool win 4-0 on aggregate)</i>
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The Independent Football

This match must go down in Liverpool's history as the least anticipated European night and one of the most exciting. The least anticipated, because with a 2-0 advantage from the first leg, Roy Hodgson's side were never likely to lose, but eagerly exciting because of an intriguing plotline off the pitch as fans contemplated Kenny Huang, takeovers, financial improvement and a return to glory.

The stadium was by no means full but there was only one topic of discussion and it was not Hodgson's decision to give Daniel Pacheco his first start or Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic their debuts. Fans are hoping a new dawn is approaching, as was the manager. "If and when a takeover is about to happen then I'm sure I'll be informed," Hodgson said after his first Anfield game ended in an easy win.

"It would be nice if one day an enormous amount of money is made available. But we would have to make sure we do our research on each and every player we sign. It is important to check the backgrounds and the character of everyone we sign. We've brought in Danny Wilson and Joe Cole since I arrived and I hope to bring in another couple of players."

The action in this Europa League third qualifying match was low key against a Macedonian club who were punished by Uefa yesterday following allegations of racial chanting by their fans during the first leg. Apart from a well-directed free-kick from Ze Carlos after 13 minutes there was little else forthcoming from Rabotnicki.

David Ngog tried to be too clever a minute later as he opted to dribble around Martin Bogatinov rather than thrash it past him and the goalkeeper superbly rebuffed his attempt. Cole remained a menace throughout the first half, as did Glen Johnson and it finally paid off in the 22nd minute when Cole drifted over yet another superb ball and Ngog atoned for his earlier error with a fine header that beat Bogatinov.

Liverpool were then helped by referee Peter Sippel who showed his disapproval at Rabotnicki's continual shirt-tugging by awarding a penalty for one wrestle too many on Ngog which Steven Gerrard comfortably converted.

The second half began with Cole hitting the crossbar while Jovanovic tested Bogatinov from range as Hodgson's side continued to display their attacking intentions. Cole was twice denied by further fine low saves from Bogatinov and Ngog missed several opportunities in a second period that fizzled out towards the end.

Liverpool will feel confident their season will not do the same. The signs, at this moment in time, look good that it will not.

Liverpool (4-3-3): Cavalieri; Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Kelly; Gerrard (Aquilani, 62), Lucas (Spearing, 73), Pacheco, Cole; Jovanovic (Maxi, 67), Ngog. Substitutes not used Gulacsi (gk), Kyrgiakos, Wilson, Eccleston.

Rabotnicki (4-4-2): Bogatinov; Dimovski, Belica, Fernando Lopes, Adem; Tuneski, Gligorov, Todorovski (Petkovski, 87), Ze Carlos (Mojsov, 62); Da Silva (Marcio, 81), Wandeir. Substitutes not used Kandikijan (gk), Sekulovski, Roberto Carlos, Sinkovic

Referee P Sippel (Germany).