Kuyt confident as Reds stay on rocky road to Dublin

LIVERPOOL may have given children free tickets for the Europa League tie against Utrecht at but even they will have felt short-changed by the disappointing goalless draw against Utrecht at Anfield.

With the Reds already qualified for the last 32, it led to a turgid and uninspiring night which highlighted the lack of depth in the squad.

Dirk Kuyt — who came on as a substitute last night — still believes Liverpool have a great chance of winning the Europa League.

Kuyt said: “We have a couple of targets. I think we have a very good chance to win this trophy.

“It’s good to be top of the group, and we’ll wait and see who our next opponent is.”

Hodgson had initially planned to give Fernando Torres pitch time to rediscover his goalscoring touch — goalkeeper Jose Reina was also expected to start but he was left out of the squad altogether — but Torres was forced to watch the entire 90 minutes from the bench instead.

“I had a change of heart on starting Fernando Torres,” admitted Hodgson.

“I was seriously considering giving him a start but I had a talk with our fitness people and they convinced me it may not be the wisest move.”

Torres’ absence robbed Liverpool of their one genuine attacking threat and, as a result, the first half was not one which will live long in the memory.

The one piece of excitement they witnessed was when Milan Jovanovic rattled the crossbar with an eighth-minute long-range shot.

Hodgson had made 10 changes to the team which lost to Newcastle at the weekend with only Martin Skrtel, captaining the team on his 26th birthday, surviving.

The team still contained the likes of Joe Cole, Ryan Babel, Jovanovic, Christian Poulsen and Fabio Aurelio but also included 19-year-old Nathan Eccleston, making his first start, and 18-year-old Danny Wilson on only his second appearance.

Hodgson made a change at the interval with Sotirios Kyrgiakos replacing Skrtel.

Babel was first to threaten 10 minutes after the restart when his run to the edge of the box saw him fire wide of Michel Vorm’s right-hand post. Eccleston then departed to allow another promising youngster, Dani Pacheco, to enter the fray.

But Babel was looking Liverpool’s most likely goalscorer and he came within inches of connecting with Kelly’s low cross into the six-yard box.

Late on Cole looked sure to score but his low shot was charged down after Vorm spilled Aurelio’s cross.

LIVERPOOL: Jones, Kelly, Skrtel (Kyrgiakos 46), Wilson, Aurelio, Jovanovic (Kuyt 73), Poulsen, Shelvey, Cole, Eccleston (Pacheco 56), Babel.

FC UTRECHT: Vorm, Cornelisse, Keller, Wuytens, Nesu, Duplan (Oar 71), Silberbauer, Nijholt, Mertens, Maguire (Sarota 84), van Wolfswinkel (de Kogel 45).

Referee: Kristinn Jakobsson (Iceland).

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