Liverpool return home from Udinese delayed

Preparations for West Ham match disrupted

Liverpool's pre-match preparations for Sunday's trip to West Ham were disrupted slightly when they were unexpectedly forced to stay overnight in Italy.

After last night's 1-0 win over Udinese which booked their place in the last 32 of the Europa League the team were scheduled to fly back to Liverpool.

However, a problem with their plane meant they were unable to take off and they had to spend the night in a hotel.

Coaching staff tried as best they could to keep the post-match routine to which the players were accustomed and Press Association Sport understands they undertook a pool recovery session this morning ahead of their return flight which is expected to see them arrive back mid-afternoon.

The team are due to travel to London tomorrow for their Barclays Premier League clash with the Hammers buoyed by their progress to the European knockout stages.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes his side took another significant step forward by topping Group A courtesy of Jordan Henderson's first-half strike.

Udinese substitute Antonio di Natale almost scored with the last kick of the game and an equaliser would have been enough to send the Merseysiders out after Young Boys won 3-1 at home to Anzhi.

Instead Rodgers is looking forward to concentrating on his side's league form for the next couple of months.

"We won and that is good for our future," Rodgers said. "We had two objectives coming into this stage of the tournament, our 10th game in the competition.

"Firstly, qualification was important and secondly, we wanted to give experience to some of younger players and we have done that.

"At the end, when they had 10 men on a difficult pitch, I thought our idea was better - control the game, pass and hide the ball - especially with young players in the side.

"This is the challenge we have to make them better players and educate them in the game whilst progressing and thankfully we've done that.

"It was always going to be a tight group and you can see how it finished (Liverpool, Anzhi and Young Boys all on 10 points), but I said to the players I always thought we could finish top."

There have been a few ups and downs along the way, but Rodgers believes Liverpool are starting to gather momentum both in Europe and domestically.

"I am absolutely delighted because they have been superb through the campaign and their league form is improving and it is really good for our momentum," he added.

"We could have been more comfortable, we had the opportunity to score goals in good areas and that was mostly down to great goalkeeping. I don't think the players could have done much more.

"There was no margin for error and I felt we had to win the game because we were in a difficult group against good teams.

"Over the course of all the games, how we have played and progressed through the tournament, I think we are deserved winners of the group.

"We can rest well, focus on the league and look forward to next February."

PA

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