Reds beat Young Boys in thrillerComment on this story
Liverpool nearly paid the price for fielding a near second-string side for their Europa League Group A opener with Swiss side Young Boys in Bern on Thursday, but held on to win a thrilling match 5-3.
Captain Steven Gerrard, goalkeeper Jose Reina, striker Luis Suarez, first-choice defenders Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Welsh international midfield playmaker Joe Allen all remained behind on Merseyside.
And Brendan Rodgers' decision seemed it might backfire against a doughty Swiss side in a match with goal-scoring opportunities galore.
Liverpool, in their 100th Uefa Cup and Europa League match, went 1-0 up after just four minutes thanks to a most bizzare Juhani Ojala own goal.
A defensive header by Christoph Spycher rebounded off Ojala's own head into the net past hapless 'keeper Marco Wolfli.
But Raphael Nuzzolo pulled one back for Young Boys before Andre Wisdom made it 2-1 for Liverpool at the break.
The home side shot into the lead with goals from Ojala and, thanks to an excellent finish, Gonzalo Zarate in the 63rd minute.
But Sebastian Coates got one back to draw the Reds level, and impressive 20-year-old replacement Jonjo Shelvey bagged a brace to give the scoreline a slightly more healthy hue than it deserved.
Liverpool's Premier League rivals Newcastle had to be happy with a goalless draw with Maritimo Funchal, based on the Atlantic island of Madeira.
Newcastle had three decent efforts in front of goal, but all came back off the post, first from Dan Gosling and then two from captain Shola Ameobi.
They were then left to ride their luck as Maritimo's Valentin Roberge saw his own header come crashing back off the woodwork in the 80th minute.
Reigning Europa League champions Atletico Madrid kicked off the defence of their title with a convincing 3-0 victory over Israeli club Hapoel Tel-Aviv.
Goals from Cristian Rodriguez and Diego Costa in the first half, allied by a third from Raul Garcia in the second period, saw the Spanish club stretch their European winning streak to 14 matches in the Group B clash.
In Turkey, controversial English midfielder Joey Barton -- still ineligible for league action following a ban picked up last season, made his debut for Marseille, whom he has joined on loan from Queens Park Rangers.
And it turned out to be a memorable night as the southern French club snatched a dramatic 2-2 draw with Fenerbahce, although Barton was substituted in the 71st minute with the score at 2-0.
The Turkish giants scored through Caner Erkin and Alex, while Matthieu Valbuena claimed an 83rd minute goal to put all the pressure on the home side.
Ghana international Andre Ayew scored the equalising goal four minutes into injury time with a header from a Valbuena corner that should have been cleared off the line.
Elsewhere, there were 4-0 victories for Bordeaux and Napoli over Club Bruges and AIK Solna of Sweden respectively.
Borussia Moenchengladbach were held to a goalless draw by AEL Limassol, the Cypriots lucky to see Oscar Wendt miss a penalty for the visitors. – AFP