Despite the home side enjoying the better chances and more possession, the Merseysiders manage to secure a lucky victory in Brendan Rodgers' first competitive game in chargeBrendan Rodgers’ managerial career at Liverpool began with a fortunate 1-0 win away to FC Gomel in the Europa League.
Liverpool looked well off the pace in the first half, with the Belarusians’ greater fitness and match practice showing, and the home side had a number of good chances to score, especially through striker Aleksandr Alumona.
The second period continued in a similar vein, with Gomel creating chances but failing to convert, and they were made to pay by Stewart Downing, who left fly with a superb long-range shot to give the Reds a precious win and away goal.
The home side selected a strong line-up for this first leg clash, captained by midfielder Mikalay Kashewski, and with Dzmitry Platonaw the lone striker up front.
Meanwhile, Liverpool selected an experienced side, captained by Jamie Carragher to commemorate his 700th appearance for the club, and also including Steven Gerrard and new signing Fabio Borini up front.
The first half began in a deafening atmosphere at Gomel’s Central Stadion and at a fast pace, as both sides looked to gain the upper hand early in the game.
It took until the 12th minute for either side to create a chance, as Liverpool left-back Jose Enrique drove in a dangerous cross from the left that Gomel goalkeeper Vladimir Bushma could only palm away to safety.
Unfortunately for the away side, Joe Cole had to be taken off with an injury in the 23rd minute, and he was replaced by youngster Raheem Stirling in the Liverpool midfield.
That break to play seemed to energise the home side while simultaneously shocking their opponents, as almost immediately, Gerrard was caught in possession by Platanow, whose cross was headed over by Igor Voronokov.
Gomel gained the upper hand from this point on, and from a corner in the 26th minute, Aleksandr Alumona found himself unmarked in the penalty area, but could only send his shot wide of Brad Jones in the Liverpool goal.
Just three minutes later, Alumona had an even better chance, as he muscled his way past Martin Skrtel, but could only shoot straight at Jones when he could easily have scored.
Liverpool looked shell-shocked and off the pace during the first half-hour of the game, with Gerrard making a number of uncharacteristic errors in midfield and new signing Borini unable to get on the ball.
The 39th minute saw Alumona cause more havoc among the Liverpool defenders, as again he saw off the pressure of Skrtel to again shoot straight into Jones’ body.
From the resulting corner, Platanow headed over the bar, with Gomel increasing the pressure on Liverpool’s goal.
Two minutes later, Alumona had yet another chance on goal, as some sloppy communication between Jones, Skrtel and Glen Johnson allowed him to break free and force yet another corner for Gomel after a last-ditch tackle.
The resulting corner saw another superb chance for Gomel, as Sergei Kazeka found himself free at the back post, but could only put his shot over the bar.
The second half began in a similar vein, and with less than a minute gone, Platanow was nearly in again, as he managed to touch a through-ball past Jones, who charged out of his penalty area. However, the Belarusian’s touch was too heavy, and yet another chance went begging.
It took Liverpool until the 49th minute to create an opening, as Borini took a pass from Enrique just outside the penalty area, but could only shoot straight at Gomel’s goalkeeper Bushma.
After a promising spell for the away side, Gomel had three golden chances in quick succession in the 64th minute, as Kazeka’s long-range shot hit the post, before a sliced shot from Alumona found Platanow, who shot wide.
Then, against the run of play, Liverpool took the lead with their first meaningful attack of the game. The ball made its way to Stewart Downing, who had previously been anonymous in the game up until that point.
Downing cut in from the right, and shot home from outside the box to give the Reds a 1-0 lead in the 67th minute, and a precious away goal.
The home side looked shell-shocked after that very unexpected development, but could have equalised in the 87th minute as Alumona’s shot from outside the penalty area brushed the side-netting.
However, Liverpool held on, and recorded a victory to ensure Rodgers' era got off to the perfect start.