Liverpool opened up their Europa campaign with a 1-0 win against FC Gomel in Belarus tonight. It was also Brendan Rodger’s first official game at the helm.
To mark the occasion of Jamie Carragher’s 700th appearance, the defender was given the captain’s armband. A few players were missing from the squad, including Luis Suarez, Sebastian Coates and Craig Bellamy, due to the Olympics.
Unfortunately for Joe Cole, the returning Red was taken off 25 minutes into the first half with a hamstring injury. He was replaced by youngster Raheem Sterling.
Just before halftime, Brad Jones had to make a desperate save from a tight angle on an attack from Gomel’s Aleksandr Alumona, who outran Skrtel toards the goal.
In the start of the second half, Glen Johnson was replaced by Martin Kelly.
Fabio Borini found his first chance. Defender Jose Enrique picks out the Italian, but Borini’s angle is too tight and the ball goes right to Gomel’s keeper.
Steven Gerrard gave a free-kick that nearly made it in thanks to the head of a Gomel player but it went inches wide of the post.
In the 64th minute, Gomel nearly went one up. Sergey Krozeka’s strike hit the post fiercely, only to have it bounce back. Dmitri Platonov took his chance on the rebound from six yards out but it went flying past the goal.
Rodgers then made the substitution of Lucas for Jordan Henderson. It was welcomed sight for many after missing the Brazilian for most of last season.
Stewart Downing saved the evening in the 67th minute with an amazing strike 25 yards out past defenders and the goalkeeper straight into the back of the net.
Another chance for Gomel came from Alumona again, but it went past the post, summing up their night.
Gomel seemed to have tapered off of their aggressiveness they exhibited in the first half. They fell back and Liverpool too became more defensive in the final minutes in an effort to keep them ahead on the night.
And it worked. Though the Reds still seemed to be in pre-season mode and are still learning the new tactics of Rodgers, they will go into the second leg at Anfield ahead.