Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has warned the club’s Europa League campaign may be something of a war of attrition.
They ground out a 1-0 victory at home to Unirea Urziceni last night in a performance which will hardly set alarm bells ringing around the rest of Europe.
David Ngog scored the only goal against Unirea nine minutes from time – only Liverpool’s sixth in seven European matches this season – after a host of half-chances had not been taken.
One of the best fell to Steven Gerrard after just 25 seconds but his effort was tipped over the crossbar by goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis.
Just 11 months ago his side were hammering Real Madrid 4-0 at Anfield in the Champions League but Benitez said times had changed.
“We started really well and I was really pleased for a while,” said the Spaniard.
“We cannot play at the same level that we played against Real Madrid every game, especially when the away team is defending well.
“You have to take you chances and if we had taken the first one in the first minute it could have been totally different but we had to be patient and keep on attacking.
“We were trying, passing the ball and continuing to move the ball.”
Ngog’s goal at least provided some breathing space ahead of next week’s return leg.
And although Benitez would have liked a bigger cushion he was happy to take a slender lead to Bucharest.
“I think we could have scored one or two more goals but that is football,” he said.
“The team was doing well in defence, 1-0 and a clean sheet is not bad.
“Sometimes when the other team is defending well you have to be patient and keep more of the ball and then we scored at the end.
“It is always important to score, especially in this competition, and not concede so we were waiting for this goal and were really please when we scored.
“It is not the best result but it is good. If we score one [in Romania] they have to score three so a clean sheet was important so we have to be relieved.
“If you ask me if I would prefer 2-0 then 100% yes but you cannot change the score now.
“We knew they were well-organised and they were a good team so we were expecting more or less their style of play.”
Unirea coach Roni Levy believes the tie is far from over.
“I am disappointed in the result. Of course, Liverpool had the ball for most of the game but one moment we didn’t concentrate we conceded a goal,” he said.
“My players came and did the best they could do. This is the first half of two legs and I am looking forward to next week.
“It is a good result to take back to Bucharest: there is still a lot of interest in the game and still we have a chance.”