Ngog strikes twice to ensure a winning start to Hodgson's reign

FK Rabotnicki 0 Liverpool 2

There's passion to be found inside a Macedonian football stadium. That most of last night's should have been directed at Liverpool's Sotirios Kyrgiakos, who suffered the misfortune of being a Greek in a country that cannot agree with its big neighbour Greece what its name might be, said much about Liverpool's curious first adventure on the long and winding road towards what might be a Dublin final next May.

The Greek/Macedonia naming dispute is too arcane and convoluted to trouble us much – the essence of is it is that Greece feels that by taking the name of one of its own regions for the nation, its neighbour is threatening annexation. Kyrgiakos has rarely looked capable of annexing anything in a mixed one-year career at Liverpool which may end in his sale back to his homeland next month – but that odd subplot had more colour in it than Liverpool's entire encounter with a side who look as if they would struggle in the lower reaches of League Two. The mere fact Roy Hodgson's side were to be found here served to illustrate how far the club fell in Rafael Benitez's last season.

Liverpool did not create much against a side whose manager, Zoran Stratev, said were "scared by the name of Liverpool" when it counted. But new signing Milan Jovanavic showed promise, 21-year-old Jay Spearing was commanding in the first game of what will be a critical season for him and 19-year-old David Amoo on the right showed he will be some player if he develops a delivery to match his pace. The match-winner, though, was David Ngog, one of the young players developed under Benitez whom the club should have less haste to be rid of than they are showing with others who remind them of the previous era.

Ngog's first last night, on 17 minutes, was a gift: Lucas Leiva's lofted ball escaped Fernando Lopes, then caused a mix-up between goalkeeper Martin Bogatinov and defender Egzon Belica, allowing Ngog to lift over the keeper. But the second, just before the hour, had nothing to do with good fortune – right-back Martin Kelly delivering a pinpoint cross and Ngog fastening on to the volley which rendered next Thursday's Anfield leg even more meaningless.

Kelly was the most promising of Hodgson's young players, later jinking down the right to cross well again. There was a hint of a hat-trick opportunity for Ngog though the goalkeeper was rather faster off his line when he ran through 10 minutes before time.

Overall Liverpool's tight shape and solidity showed the impact of Hodgson's reign, though the manager, prickly and fretful beforehand, gave a sense of the stress he is feeling, late last night. "I fear, having taken on this job, there will be a weight of expectation on my shoulders every time I step in Melwood... or go to a game with the team," he said.

The only bad moment came 10 minutes after the interval when Kyrgiakos's slow reactions to a long ball almost led to an equaliser. The Skopje public had forgotten to berate him by then and 15 minutes before time had started processing out of the stadium. As Hodgson relaxed and threw more and more youth into the venture, a section of floodlights also failed. It will take rather more of a threat than Rabotnicki to turn the lights out on his new side.

Rabotnicki (4-1-4-1): Bogatinov, Belica, Sekulovski, Dimovski, Todorovski; Gligorov; Tuneski, Fernando Lopes, Ze Carlos, Da Silva; Wandeir. Substitutes not used Kandikijan, Marcio, Mojsov, Adem, Roberto Carlos, Petkovski, Sinkovic.

Liverpool (4-4-1-1): Cavalieri; Kelly, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel, Agger (Darby, 72); Amoo (Dalla Valle, 84), Spearing, Lucas, Jovanovic; Aquilani (Eccleston, 84); Ngog. Substitutes not used Gulacsi, Shelvey,Ayala, Ince.

Referee A Damato ( Italy ).

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
Life and Style
fashion David Beckham fronts adverts for his underwear collection
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
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.

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape