Belfast Telegraph

Reina left red-faced, but Liverpool make point

Steaua Bucharest 1 Liverpool 1: Jose Reina has accepted responsibility for Steaua Bucharest equaliser in Liverpool's 1-1 draw last night, but the Spaniard remains happy with his side's qualification from Group K.

Manager Roy Hodgson sent out a much-changed side containing several inexperienced players and they returned a creditable draw following Milan Jovanovic's 19th-minute strike.

That could even have proved the winner had Reina not let Eder Bonfim's tame header squirm through his legs and over the line just after the hour mark.

Nevertheless, a point was still enough for the Reds to move to the round of 32.

Reina said: “I thought one of their players was offside for the goal, but I've watched replays and it's my fault. It's my mistake and I have to handle that and get through.

“He was definitely obstructing me, but I definitely should have reacted much better than I did. I will handle the mistake and improve.”

Reina also praised the younger players — including the likes of Martin Kelly, Danny Wilson, Dani Pacheco and Jonjo Shelvey — for earning the point for their side.

“We have to give them some credit because we made a great effort,” he added.

“We have players out there with not much experience and they showed great character and helped us get the point we needed.”

Liverpool progress to the knockout stages having secured top spot in their group thanks to the point picked up in the Romainan capital. Utrecht's 3-3 draw with Napoli ensured they could not be caught at the top of the table with a match still to play.

Joe Cole returned after a five-week lay-off with a hamstring injury. Manager Roy Hodgson had admitted before the game the England international was low on confidence after a suspension and injury-interrupted start to his Liverpool career and that showed in his performance.

Despite playing in his supposedly favourite position behind the striker Cole cut a peripheral figure and was unable to affect the game before he was replaced 15 minutes from time by David Ngog.

The opening exchanges were unremarkable except for plenty of non-harmful Steaua possession and Reina, captaining the side in the absence of the injured Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, being targeted by a fan with a laser pen.

It was the second occasion this season the Spain international has had to contend with the irritation, the first coming in their Europa League play-off against Trabzonspor in August.

A complaint to Turkish referee Bulent Yildirim and a stadium announcement thankfully appeared to halt the offender.

By that time, however, Steaua should have been ahead, but Eric Bicfalvi headed over left-back Iasmin Latovlevici's cross from eight yards.

It proved to be a costly miss as Liverpool took the lead with their first chance in the 19th minute.

Jovanovic started and finished the move. The Serbia international worked the ball out to Ryan Babel on the right. When the Dutchman crossed to the far post Jovanovic headed home.

Babel almost had a hand in creating a second goal, but his pass which picked out Cole on the penalty spot was miscontrolled and Pacheco eventually bundled a shot wide from the edge of the area.

Early in the second-half Reina saved low from Geraldo Alves' header and tipped Bogdan Stancu's shot, which looped up off Fabio Aurelio, over the crossbar.

The Steaua striker played a significant part without actually touching the ball in the home side's 61st-minute equaliser.

Stancu was positioned in front of Reina — played onside by Danny Wilson — when Bonfim launched his header but the goalkeeper, distracted by his opponent's presence, allowed the ball to squirm out of his grasp, through his legs and over the line.

Liverpool were happy to hang on for a third point in as many Group K away matches, maintaining their unbeaten run in Europe this season, and that was enough to achieve their objective.

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