Liverpool 4-1 FC Steaua Bucureşti
Second-half goals from David Ngog (2) and Lucas guaranteed Roy Hodgson's charges a victorious start to the Group K campaign.
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Liverpool FC made a winning start to their Group K campaign by overcoming FC Steaua Bucureşti through second-half goals from David Ngog (2) and Lucas.
When Joe Cole struck after 27 seconds, Liverpool's fans might have anticipated a comfortable evening but Cristian Tănase equalised after 13 minutes and with opportunities scarce, it took Ngog's spot-kick to restore their lead soon after the restart. Lucas and Ngog added a touch of gloss with two late goals, securing a fifth straight win in the UEFA Europa League for Anfield manager Roy Hodgson, the man who led Fulham FC to the final last season.
Cole had been sent off on his Anfield debut and missed a penalty here against Trabzonspor but he made an immediate impact with his first Liverpool goal. It followed a mistake by Octavian Obrudan who played a weak back-pass that Cole capitalised on with a low finish past Ciprian Tătăruşanu. Steaua, like Liverpool, scored with their first shot on target through skipper Tănase. Collecting Gerardo Alves's forward pass, Bogdan Stancu threaded the ball on to Tănase who, breaking between two Liverpool defenders, chipped deftly beyond Pepe Reina.
Although Steaua lost full-back Ifeanyi Emeghara to injury, Bănel Nicoliţă replacing him, the visitors were largely untroubled until half-time by a Liverpool side featuring eight changes from their last Premier League outing. Hodgson left out Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres altogether, no doubt mindful of Sunday's trip to Manchester United FC.
There were 25,605 inside Anfield and the mood was subdued but Liverpool silenced the small band of Steaua fans in the 55th minute. Gerardo Alves was penalised for holding Sotiris Kyrgiakos and Ngog tucked away the spot-kick. Tănase curled wide after sidestepping Kyrgiakos and that was as good as it got for Steaua as substitute Lucas thrashed home Liverpool's third from 20 metres before Ngog, his persistence taking him past two yellow shirts, drilled in a fourth in added time for his fifth goal in the competition.