Belfast Telegraph

Christian Benteke's blast puts Liverpool into Europa League knockout stages

Liverpool 2-1 Bordeaux

By Carl Markham

Christian Benteke's brilliant strike saw Liverpool beat Bordeaux 2-1 to qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League with a match to spare.

The Belgium international's goal in first-half added time proved decisive after James Milner's earlier penalty had spared the blushes of goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, whose needlessly-conceded free-kick for time-wasting had allowed Henri Saivet to give Bordeaux the lead.

In addition to his goal Benteke had a further two ruled out, but ultimately his contribution was enough to send the Reds to Switzerland next month needing only a point against Sion to top Group B, although their place in the next round is already guaranteed after Rubin Kazan's win over the Swiss.

Mignolet, reflecting on his error which led to Bordeaux's goal, said: "What can you do? Unfortunately I waited a bit too long, but the fortunate thing is we responded.

"We've qualified now and hopefully we can win group."

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The visitors felt the spot-kick awarded against them for a foul on Benteke was harsh, but the man of the match said: "I have to play the game, he grabbed me and I think it's a penalty.

"I try to do my job when the coach needs me and try to work hard for the team.

"I came here to fight for every game and take the opportunities the manager gives me."

Pool boss Jurgen Klopp highlighted a few "strange decisions" during the clash.

"There were some strange decisions I would say, I hope strange is not too hard a word," he argued.

"Frustrated? I don't know. (Simon Mignolet) was 20 seconds with the ball? Oh OK.

"Usually you won't give this type of free-kick."

He added: "There is no bad news tonight because we knew before the game Bordeaux are much better than their situation in the table."

Benteke's brilliance in front of goal would have been welcomed by Klopp, especially as Daniel Sturridge's anticipated presence on the bench did not materialise after he was sent for a scan on his foot after complaining of discomfort in training.

In almost three years the 26-year-old has missed almost as many matches (68) as he has played (70).

Benteke was brought in over the summer, at a considerable £32.5m cost, by former manager Brendan Rodgers who wanted a forward he could rely on having suffered from Sturridge's injury problems for most of the previous campaign. The Belgian's fourth goal in his last nine games suggests he is capable of fulfilling the consistency requirement for his new boss.

Consistency is still an issue which dogs Mignolet, however, and that was all too evident on the night.

Just 13 minutes in he came out of his area to head the ball, but directed it straight to Clement Chantome and only a block by Kolo Toure prevented him shooting into an empty goal.

Worse was to follow 20 minutes later when the Belgian goalkeeper's dithering, something which has been commonplace throughout his time at Anfield, proved costly.

Seemingly unable to find a team-mate to release the ball to he held on to it for 22 seconds - more than long enough for referee Alon Yefet to penalise him with an indirect free-kick, which was tapped to Saivet who drilled home.

Equally soft was Liverpool's equaliser when Ludovic Sane was adjudged to have fouled Benteke.

Milner (pictured) converted from the spot - Liverpool's first penalty in 23 matches.

Benteke's strike seconds before half-time was glorious, cushioning Nathaniel Clyne's pass out of his feet and instantly smashing a shot past Cedric Carrasso.

LIVERPOOL: Mignolet, Clyne, Touré, Lovren, Moreno, Milner, Lucas, Allen (Can 67), Ibe (Origi 90), Benteke, Firmino (Lallana 74). Subs not used: , Brannagan, Bogdan, Skrtel, Randall.

Goals: Milner (pen) 38, Benteke 45.

BORDEAUX: Carrasso, Poko, Yambéré, Sane, Contento, Rolan, Plasil (Ounas 84), Saivet, Chantôme, Vieira (Maurice-Belay 76), Crivelli (Diabaté 67). Subs not used: Traoré, Guilbert, Poundje, Prior.

Goal: Saivet 33

Man of the match: Christian Benteke.

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Alon Yefet (Israel).

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