Nervous return awaits Liverpool after penalty blunder by Cole

Liverpool 1 Trabzonspor 0
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The Independent Football

On his debut he was sent off; last night, for an encore, he missed a penalty in front of the Kop. Liverpool has seen better beginnings than Joe Cole's.

However, when he arrived on Merseyside, Cole asked for patience, pointing out he had not played properly since March. It was to Anfield's credit that after the first penalty of his professional career was palmed away, they began chanting his name – and but for Cole's wonderfully-judged pass to Ryan Babel, Liverpool might have endured a night of even deeper frustration.

A 2-0 victory against the Turkish Cup holders ought to have been decisive and the question was why Cole, who had never before taken a penalty, should have stepped up for the spot-kick once Lucas Leiva had been scythed down by Serkan Balci half-a-dozen minutes after the interval. Mostly, it was because the men who have regularly taken Liverpool's penalties – Steven Gerrard, Dirk Kuyt and Yossi Benayoun – were for one reason or another absent.

The England midfielder had the courage to face the media afterwards, acknowledging that he had been the designated penalty taker despite having taken his last one as a 13-year-old.

"But I did score it," he said. "It was a bad penalty; we won the game 1-0 and I'm happy about that but it wasn't a vintage performance by any stretch of the imagination. A lot of our players still need games to get match fit and we are far from through. Going to Turkey is always very, very tough and we will have to be on top of our game if we are going to go through."

Trabzon, a city that stands on Asia's ancient spice route, should have improved its hospitality since Liverpool last travelled there in 1977, where Bob Paisley thought the food worse than the rations he received as a soldier in the Western Desert. "The pitch had rocks all over it, the hotel was awful, we were woken by the noise of farm animals at 5am and we lost 1-0," was how his goalkeeper, Ray Clemence, remembered it.

Senol Gunes, the man who took Turkey to third place in the 2002 World Cup, was Clemence's opposite number that night. He has organised Trabzonspor into a highly-efficient side whom Liverpool largely kept at bay on an evening when Onur Kivrak produced the kind of display that Rustu Recber, Turkey's most famous goalkeeper, would have recognised.

He was beaten only once, in first-half stoppage time when Cole seized possession by the halfway line. He broke away with pace and precision and judged his pass to Babel beautifully. Throughout his time on Merseyside the young Dutchman had urged Rafael Benitez to play him through the middle and, if this was his opportunity, he made his point by drilling his shot into the corner of Kivrak's net.

He was, however, not to be given another. His manager, Roy Hodgson, thought Liverpool's first-half display lifeless and, to a rapturous reception, Fernando Torres replaced Babel for the second half. He is still not properly fit but this was a display that gave a taste of what might be coming. Torres' first touch sent the ball whistling past the foot of the Trabzonspor goal and into the advertising hoardings by the Kop. If it was said of Robbie Fowler that Anfield was his kingdom, it is now Torres' realm.

Nevertheless, if, as expected,Kenny Heung makes a statement today about his intentions to take over Liverpool, it will be against the background of a club whose position in Europe is less than wholly secure. The Chinese businessman always knew that if his bid succeeded he would own a club deprived of the deep revenue streams of the Champions League and, despite another good performance, even the modest trickle of the Europa League could be denied him.

Match facts

Liverpool 4-2-3-1: Reina; Kelly, Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Aurelio; Lucas Leiva, Poulsen; Rodriguez (Ngog, 73), Cole, Jovanovic; Babel (Torres, h-t). Substitutes not used Cavlieri (g), Wilson, Spearing, Skrtel, Pacheco.

Trabzonspor (4-3-2-1): Kivrak; Balci, Glowacki, Korkmaz, Cale; Gulselam, Inan, Colman (Kacar, 77); Yilmaz (Alanzinho, 56), Bulut (Yattara, 86); Gutierrez. Substitutes not used Zengin, Badur, Atas, Jaja.

Man of the match Kivrak.

Possession Liverpool 53%, Trabzonspor 47%.

Shots on target Liverpool 8, Trabzonspor 4.

Referee T Einwaller (Austria).

Attendance 40,941.

Match rating 7/10.