Joe Cole scores but Liverpool are foiled by late Young Boys strike

On the day Rafael Benítez was unveiled as Chelsea manager came a reminder that not everything has changed for Liverpool since he was ushered out of the Anfield door. They continue to find ways of leaving European qualification to the last, much to the annoyance of Brendan Rodgers.

Liverpool were in the last 32 of the Europa League with two minutes remaining against Young Boys here. The script was that of a rare moment to savour in a Liverpool shirt for Joe Cole, whose fine turn and finish into the Kop goal appeared to have secured qualification with a game to spare.

Then Luis Suárez had a chance charged down on the edge of the Young Boys' area. They broke unimpeded and Elsad Zverotic brought the Swiss club level with an emphatic finish past José Reina. Liverpool now travel to Udinese next month knowing victory over the eliminated Italian club is required to guarantee progress. "We have tried to navigate our way through the group with a thin squad and we were there with only a few minutes to go," Rodgers said.

"It is very frustrating. When you are 2-1 up and through with only a few minutes left you have to control the game and show better game management. We had a chance to shoot at one end of the field and in the 87th minute we are walking back. That's what I mean by better game management. They walked through unchallenged. It was a disappointing goal to concede in every respect."

Young Boys soaked up the adulation from their travelling fans and rightly so. Raúl Bobadilla had also produced a stunning equaliser as Martin Rueda's team gave themselves a fighting chance of qualifying at Liverpool's expense.

Udinese's defeat by Anzhi Makhachkala earlier in the day simplified the equation for Liverpool. They knew victory would ensure qualification but, on the flip-side, it gave Young Boys added incentive to take the game to a much-changed home side and three times in the opening five minutes they troubled Reina. This was Reina's 81st European appearance for Liverpool, breaking the club record for a goalkeeper set previously by Ray Clemence.

Having survived an uncertain start Liverpool, with Cole, Suso and Jonjo Shelvey exerting an increasing creative influence, gained control of the first half. Cole went close when released on the right by Shelvey, his low shot evading Marco Wölfli in the Young Boys' goal but also the far post, while a delightful flick from Shelvey put Jordan Henderson clean through. Wölfli, however, refused to commit and saved well. He was powerless to prevent Liverpool taking the lead when their three most potent forward players combined superbly. Cole exchanged passes with Suso on the edge of the area and, as Wölfli advanced, clipped an intelligent cross to the far post where Shelvey arrived unopposed to head in from close range.

Liverpool missed several first-half chances for a comfortable lead and were punished at the start of the second half when Alexander Farnerud sprayed a crossfield ball towards Bobadilla lurking on the left of the Liverpool area. The centre-forward turned his back as it dropped behind Henderson – shifted to right-back following Andre Wisdom's withdrawal with a knee injury – but controlled superbly on his thigh. His next touch was equally impressive and a venomous left-foot volley gave Reina no chance.

Cole restored Liverpool's advantage from substitute Steven Gerrard's pass but, with a place in the last 32 and some personal redemption in sight, it was taken away in stunning style by Zverotic.

comments powered by Disqus