Hodgson's relief as Liverpool scrape through against Trabzonspor
Trabzonspor 1 Liverpool 2 (Liverpool win 3-1 on aggregate): Liverpool managed to escape an embarrassing exit in Turkey last night with two late goals to advance into the Europa League group stages, the draw for which takes place at noon today.
However, it was a far from convincing display and it needed an own goal by the Trabzonspor centre-half Remzi Kacar and a strike from Dirk Kuyt to secure their passage 3-1 on aggregate.
Liverpool's one-goal advantage from the first leg at Anfield had been wiped out in the fourth minute when Teofilo Gutierrez side-footed past Jose Reina, but the late goals ensured that Roy Hodgson did not become the first Reds manager to exit Europe before the end of August.
"We were looking down the barrel here," said Hodgson. "They were fresh off a win over Fenerbahce, they are last season's champions, they don't lose at home and we beat them at home. To get a result here was something quite important and will stand us in good stead for plenty of other matches."
Kuyt, who sealed his side's progress, took the opportunity to play down talk of a move to Internazionale, where Hodgson's predecessor at Anfield, Rafa Benitez, is now in charge.
"Everyone has said a lot about my future but as far as I know it is at Liverpool. I've had a great time so far and I hope my future will be great here. All I want is to win trophies with Liverpool."
The victory was Liverpool's first in Turkey against Turkish opposition and their hosts' first defeat at home in 2010. Despite finding themselves under huge pressure in the opening 45 minutes Liverpool should have wrapped things up a lot sooner than they did.
David Ngog missed two second-half chances which Fernando Torres, the man he was standing in for with the Spaniard resting back on Merseyside, would probably have buried.
Prior to that Sotirios Kyrgiakos – one of five changes from Monday's defeat by Manchester City – could have scored in only the second minute but he directed a header from Fabio Aurelio's corner straight at Onur Kivrak.
Trabzonspor made no such mistake two minutes later when Kuyt gave the ball away and Gustavo Colman's intended shot sliced open the defence and Gutierrez finished. A quick counter-attack from an Aurelio corner almost brought a second with Jamie Carragher deflecting Ibrahima Yattara's shot behind and then Colman drilling in a low effort which Reina turned around his left-hand post.
The Liverpool goalkeeper was receiving some unwanted attention from a fan with a laser pen and the Croatian referee Ivan Bebek instructed the Uefa delegate to put out a warning that the game could be stopped as a result.
In the 52nd minute Ngog should have given Liverpool some much-needed breathing space when Joe Cole crossed to the far post but the Frenchman headed wide from close range. Ngog then turned his marker on the edge of the penalty area but, faced with a clear shot at goal, rolled his effort wide.
Liverpool were, however, growing in confidence as Trabzonspor began to drop deeper and deeper. Hodgson made his first change with 13 minutes to go when he sent on Dani Pacheco for Aurelio and the breakthrough finally came after pressure by Ngog.
Glen Johnson's run and cross down the right was turned in by Kacar via the near post. And things were wrapped up late on as Kuyt tapped in after Kivrak could only parry Cole's shot.
Trabzonspor (4-4-2): Kivrak; Cale (Jaja, 86), Korkmaz, Kacar, Balci; Colman, Gulselam (Atas, 65), Inan, Yilmaz; Gutierrez, Yattara (Alanzinho, h-t). Substitutes not used Zengin (gk), Baytar, Badur, Oztorun.
Liverpool (4-4-1-1): Reina; Kelly, Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Johnson; Aurelio (Pacheco, 77), Lucas, Poulsen (Skrtel, 90), Kuyt; Cole; Ngog (Babel, 86). Substitutes not used Gulacsi (gk), Spearing, Shelvey, Eccleston.