Anfield was a happy place to be on Thursday and for nobody more so than Stewart Downing, who scored the only goal to earn his side victory against FC Anji Makhachkala and provide a boost to his first-team chances.
Downing, who has not started a Premier League game for Liverpool since the opening day, had begun the second half as a makeshift left-back, dropping back after Glen Johnson's withdrawal, but that did not stop him stepping forward to hit the spectacular 53rd-minute strike that lifted his side top of UEFA Europa League Group A. "It was frustrating at times but it was a good night for us in the end and a good win," he reflected. Anji defender Christopher Samba came away less pleased, arguing that his team merited a point.
Stewart Downing, Liverpool midfielder
That was a good goal, I was quite happy with it and [it] probably [came at] a good point as well because they made it hard for us and it looked like it was going to take a long-range strike to win the game. It was frustrating at times but it was a good night for us in the end and a good win.
I've said before that the only way you can prove [yourself] to the manager is to go out on the field and play well and get goals and assists [and] hopefully I will give him food for thought. I've enjoyed it when I've played [at left-back] before. Glen was struggling with a bit of a niggle at half-time – you don't want to risk him – but to go to left-back is no problem. I enjoyed it and that's where I got the goal from so it was a good night all round
Brad Jones, Liverpool goalkeeper
It was a solid team performance. Defensively we didn't give anything away, we really nullified their threat. We didn't give too much to [Samuel] Eto'o and when the big lad [Lacina Traoré] came on at the end, they didn't really create anything.
It's as good a performance as you're going to get, to keep another team that quiet – they've got some dangerous players who could have caused a bigger threat but we dealt with it and were very composed on the ball. Stewart has got that in his locker, he is good on both feet. He has been unfortunate since he came here with deflections and things not quite falling for him, but that [goal] shows what he can do.
Oussama Assaidi, Liverpool winger
It is difficult to play against Anji but we played well and won and everyone is happy. I think I played well – I might have scored one but missed [a first-half opportunity]. I am improving, every day I'm getting better [and feeling] physically stronger and fitter.
Christopher Samba, Anji defender
It was a good game, they were at home, they had more chances than us but nothing too dangerous, and they scored a goal that was largely avoidable which is a shame for us. I think that overall a draw might have been fairer because they didn't have any really clear chances.
We gave a good account of ourselves. We took a bit of time to get into the match but in Europe you don't want to concede. It's a shame we did. We have to win at home now – we are still second, the top two go through and we have two games at home now.
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