Mascherano rallies shaky Liverpool

Unirea Urziceni 1 Liverpool 3 (Liverpool win 4-1 on aggregate)

Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, was pleased with the character shown by his side after they bounced back from the shock of conceding an early goal to Unirea Urziceni in Romania to earn a place in the last 16 of the Europa League comfortably last night.

Shaky defending from set pieces in the first half saw them fall behind to Bruno Fernandes' header in the 18th minute and for a while they looked rattled. However, goals from Javier Mascherano from long range and Ryan Babel from close in turned things around before the interval and Steven Gerrard's 33rd European goal – a record for a British player – in the second half ensured any potential embarrassment was avoided.

"We showed character. It was a difficult game because of the pitch. We needed to be calm and do the job properly," Benitez said. "To play better we needed to score our goal as they were dangerous at set pieces. I think once we scored a goal everything was easier and the second and third goals made things better. Still we had some problems but the main thing was to score; we did it and we had more control of the game."

However, just as he thought his injury worries were easing, Benitez lost the centre-back Martin Skrtel to a suspected broken foot following a challenge by the Unirea substitute Antonio Semedo. "At this moment we don't know how serious it is but it could be a broken foot," Benitez said. "That would be bad news but we will have to wait and see what happens but it was a bad tackle."

The Romanian side cancelled out Liverpool's first-leg advantage when Razvan Paduretu's inviting corner allowed Fernandes to power home a header virtually unchallenged.

However, Benitez's side steadied things and in the 29th minute they equalised when Babel miscontrolled Gerrard's far-post header with only the goalkeeper to beat but the ball broke to Mascherano outside the penalty area for him to lash a shot past goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis.

Liverpool gave themselves the cushion they needed five minutes before half-time. Gerrard swung in a free-kick from the right and Babel took one touch before swivelling to fire home from close range.

Gerrard wrapped things up in the 57th minute when he seized on a loose ball following Yossi Benayoun's run to shoot low past Arlauskis.

The Unirea coach, Roni Levy, admitted that even when his side opened the scoring he did not consider there could be an upset. "I knew it was an early goal and we had a long time until the end of the game," he said.

Unirea Urziceni (4-4-2): Arlauskis; Maftei, Galamaz (Mehmedovic, 27), Fernandes, Bordeanu; Paduretu, Paraschiv (Vilana, 56), Apostol, Onofras (Semedo, 62); Bilasco, Frunza. Substitutes not used: Tudor (gk), Rusescu, Nicu, Marinescu.

Liverpool (4-4-1-1): Reina; Carragher (Kelly, 61), Agger, Skrtel (Kyrgiakos, 66), Insua; Babel, Lucas, Mascherano, Benayoun (Aurelio, 77); Gerrard; Ngog. Substitutes not used: Cavalieri (gk), Aquilani, Torres, Kuyt.

Referee: S Johannesson (Sweden).

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.

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk