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).

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam