A Ryan Babel strike was enough to give Liverpool the win in a tight match in the Europa League play-off stage.
The Dutch forward finished well after Joe Cole had slotted him in, while Cole himself had the chance to score as he missed a penalty in the second half.
Liverpool, though, were disappointing against a Trabzonspor side that they really should be beating.
A decent performance against Arsenal at the weekend meant that the Reds were in good stead for this match. A late error from Pepe Reina gifted Arsenal a point in that Premier League match while David N’Gog continued his impressive goal scoring form of late as he fired past Manuel Almunia in the Arsenal goal. The French striker, though, started on the bench for Liverpool as Ryan Babel got his chance to show what he’s got. New signing Christian Poulsen started alongside Lucas Leiva in defensive midfield, while Cole, who got sent off against Arsenal, was available to play in this match.
After defeating Macedonian side Rabotnicki in the previous round Roy Hodgson’s men were sure to face a much sterner test against the Turkish side Trabzonspor. The Maroon-Blues won the Turkish Super Cup last season after defeating Fenerbahce 3-1 in the final and their manager, Senol Gunes, led Turkey to a famous third place finish in the 2002 World Cup finals. The side did have threats up front with Teofilo Gutierrez and Umut Bulut lining up in a striking partnership.
Striker Fernando Torres was left on the bench as the Spaniard continued his recovery from the injury he picked up in the World Cup, while Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson did not feature in the Liverpool side at all as Hodgson rested a few players as he looked towards the Manchester City game at the weekend.
The game had a rather dull first half although it looked bright for Liverpool early on as Sotirios Kyrgiakos had a header well saved after a Maxi Rodriguez corner. A Fabio Aurelio free kick, which sailed over the bar, and a Burak Yilmaz effort from a freekick for Trabzonspor were pretty much the only actions of note in the first half, until the final minute of the first forty-five.
After a mix—up between two Trabzonspor players Cole raced clear and, after enduring a frustrating first half whereby the opposition stopped the Englishman from playing, the former Chelsea midfielder placed a perfect through ball to Babel, who expertly finished, giving Liverpool the lead at half time.
It was to be Babel’s last action of the match, though, as Hodgson replaced him at half time with Torres. The striker went straight into the thick of the action as forced the ‘keeper into a fine save and the Scouse side seemed to be lifted by Torres’ arrival as, from the resulting corner, Lucas showed why many Premier League followers doubt his quality in such a top side. The Brazilian midfielder headed wide after getting into a great position, unmarked.
Lucas soon made up for that glaring miss, though, as he was brought down by Serkan Balci in the area, giving Liverpool the chance to double their lead. Cole stepped up to attempt to score his first goal for his new club but he hit a poor shot and the ‘keeper saved relatively easily in front of the Kop.
Milan Jovanovic has impressed in the short time that he has been at the Anfield club and the winger nearly set up Torres for his first goal of the season. After a clever flick from Cole found the Serbian winger a cross was put in to Torres who, from the edge of the area, powered a header towards goal, only for the ‘keeper to save it.
Aurelio seems to have taken up free kick responsibilities for Liverpool, when Gerrard is not playing, and the Brazilian tried, on many occasions, to score from acute angles. The left-back, though, was not hugely successful, with the best effort forcing goalkeeper Onur Recep Kivrak into a save that was pushed out, straight into the path of Cole. The winger picked up the pieces and fired the ball back across goal but the Trabzonspor defence, who were pretty solid and kept Liverpool at bay for most of the night, cleared easily.
The game was definitely not one of Cole’s better matches with the Englishman disappointing on the whole, firing a shot wide of the mark with twenty minutes to go which summed up his evening. There was a little bit of controversy towards the end, with Cole involved, as Poulsen looked to have scored on his debut but the referee deemed that either Cole or the defensive midfielder, who were stood in the goal mouth as a scramble transpired, had fouled the goalkeeper after a Lucas header was saved.
Liverpool did not play well against the Turkish side and the away team will definitely be the happier as the score line could have been heavier if Liverpool had taken their chances. Trabzonspor will now be hoping that, with the hostile environment of a Turkish home game, as well as some frustrating tactics, they can overcome Liverpool to reach the Europa League proper.
Liverpool 1 – 0 Trabzonspor