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).

Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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.

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect