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Liverpool skipper Lucas praises Euro young guns

Liverpool midfielder Lucas hopes to have laid down a marker after captaining the team to a comfortable season-opening Europa League victory on Thursday.

The Reds were pressed into action with an inexperienced side 17 days before their Barclays Premier League campaign begins after last season's seventh-placed finish left them needing to qualify for Europe's second-tier competition.

With several World Cup players having only recently returned to training, and others still on holiday, manager Roy Hodgson chose to travel to face Macedonian side FK Rabotnicki in Skopje with a youthful squad.

Lucas (pictured) was one of just a handful of senior players to feature and, in the absence of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, wore the captain's armband.

And, after a comfortable 2-0 victory, the Brazilian wants to keep it for the second leg of the third round qualifier next week.

Lucas said: “It is a really good achievement for me. I am really proud, really happy, but the most important thing was the win.

“I know there are a lot of senior players in front of me but I hope I did a really good job and hopefully I will keep it.

“We are really pleased. It is our first win of the season and it was an important game. We got two away goals against a difficult team, so we have started the right way.

“Hopefully we will keep the same for the next match.”

David Ngog scored both goals as Liverpool eased to victory with few alarms.

Lucas played alongside homegrown youngster Jay Spearing with Alberto Aquilani playing in a more advanced role behind lone striker Ngog.

With the likes of Gerrard, Joe Cole and Javier Mascherano — although the latter has expressed a desire to leave — training back on Merseyside, Lucas feels competition for midfield places is strong.

“Jay was fantastic and Alberto is getting the fitness back,” Lucas said. “This is good for the team, this is good for the season.

“When you have good competition with good players it will always be good for the team.

“The first two friendlies were to get our fitness back. Now for the official game we were 100 per cent and we were ready.

“It was really important we won away with two goals and we didn't concede.

“The shape of the team was really good and hopefully we will keep doing the same, but we still have to play the second leg.

“We have to make sure we beat them again.”

For Spearing the tie offers an early opportunity to impress new manager Hodgson.

The 21-year-old Wirral-born player briefly broke into Rafael Benitez's first team last season but ended the campaign on loan at Leicester.

Spearing said: “It's a massive season for me, with a new manager I've got to try to impress.

“It was a chance for me and the other young lads, (David) Amoo and (Martin) Kelly, to show the boss what we are capable of.

“I'm happy with my performance but at the end of the day it is a team one. We are halfway there but we need to get back to Anfield and finish the job off as soon as possible.”

Belfast Telegraph


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