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Liverpool vs. Hearts: 6 Things We Learned from Europa League Clash

Karl MatchettFeatured Columnist IVNovember 26, 2016

Liverpool vs. Hearts: 6 Things We Learned from Europa League Clash

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    Liverpool have squeezed through to the Europa League group stage after a late Luis Suarez goal saw them draw 1-1 with Scottish side Hearts, leaving the Reds 2-1 up on aggregate.

    It was far from a classic at Anfield with a relatively slow-paced game, as Liverpool were happy to bide their time before striking and Hearts content to merely stay in the game only a goal behind, but what could Brendan Rodgers take from the match as a whole?

    Hearts' most impressive player over the two legs, David Templeton, scored the goal for the away side that looked as if it would force extra time, but Suarez's late reply came just a few minutes later.

    Here are six things we learned in the Europa League play-off second leg.

Pepe Reina: Needs His Previously Excellent Levels of Concentration Back Pronto

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    What's up with Pepe?

    Liverpool's goalkeeper has made howlers before, of course, but his form over the last 12 to 18 months has wavered between average and good—which is far lower than the usual standards that Reds fans have come to expect from him.

    Against Hearts it was simply a matter of concentration as Reina took his eye off the ball and failed to get his body behind it, allowing what should have been a routine stop to end up looking like an Adam Federici special.

    Liverpool need their super-focussed, organisational and technically superb goalkeeper back, and they need him now.

Joe Allen Grows Bigger Every Game

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    For the third time in as many Reds matches, Joe Allen was Liverpool's man of the match and produced a sublime display in midfield.

    His control and use of the ball was as exemplary as ever, but it was perhaps in winning the ball back that Allen was most appreciated against Hearts.

    Allen's knack of quickly stealing the ball without seeming to actually tackle and his ability to position himself to make interceptions are quickly making up for the loss of Lucas Leiva to injury.

    It certainly appears Liverpool have picked themselves up a superb signing this summer.

Steven Gerrard Still Has Work to Do to Fit into Rodgers' Team

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    Steven Gerrard produced an energetic and adventurous performance for Liverpool at times against Hearts and was the only real threat from midfield.

    He also failed to successfully complete a succession of relatively straight-forward passes and overran the ball on several occasions as he attempted to out-sprint a defender.

    It could be that Gerrard is simply still working his way to full sharpness after a busy summer and a later start of preseason, but we might be seeing some signs of Gerrard not being able to function exactly the way he wants to.

    His trademark bursts through spaces in midfield are still there, but he needs to get that end product right soon; he has so far been one of the worst performers in terms of finding a teammate with his passes since the beginning of the season.

    A few goals and wins from now might see Gerrard take a pivotal role again, but at the moment he is certainly playing second fiddle in terms of effectiveness to a number of other players.

Luis Suarez: Just Score the Easy Ones, Lad

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    Luis Suarez showed plenty more of his fantastic close control, brilliant one-on-one skills and ability to create chances out of thin air against Hearts.

    He also showed more of his alarming propensity to spurn glorious chances of adding to Liverpool's goal tally—or indeed to start it on this occasion.

    Twice in the second half he had more than presentable chances, including one after rounding the goalkeeper, to take a quick shot and put Liverpool ahead. A header in the first half should also have found the target.

    True, Suarez eventually put Liverpool through with a solo effort, going outside of the defender and beating the Hearts 'keeper at his near post with a left-footed shot from a difficult angle—but would there really have been all the fuss and worry late on in the game if Luis had just stuck one or two of his earlier, easier chances away?

Raheem Sterling Could Be Liverpool's Supersub This Season

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    Raheem Sterling's impressive performance against Manchester City marks him out as a player who can have a big impact for the Reds this season in the Premier League, even against top-quality opposition.

    As good as he is though, Sterling is just a youngster with next to no experience in first-team football, and is therefore likely to be eased into regular action.

    His speed and acceleration, as well as his nimble footwork and majestic first-touch control, mean he could be a genuine match-winner for Liverpool off the bench in the last 20 minutes of games on a regular occurrence as opposition defences begin to tire.

    Yes, Sterling will want to start games—and will, when possible—but his main role this first half of the season at least will likely be as a replacement, and he is definitely good enough and eager enough to make himself a supersub.

Charlie Adam and Jay Spearing Set to Follow Andy Carroll out of Anfield

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    Andy Carroll did not feature in Liverpool's squad for the second leg, and during the match it emerged that the forward had signed for West Ham United on a yearlong loan deal.

    Also not included in the 18 were midfielders Jay Spearing and Charlie Adam—a real sign that they will both be moved.

    Both midfielders are surplus to requirements and do not fit into the style of play Brendan Rodgers wants to see at Liverpool, with six central midfielders ahead of them at the club.

    It is hugely likely that both players will be offloaded by Liverpool on transfer deadline day, likely to Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City, respectively.

     

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