Despite a dreary rain cascading down at Anfield, Liverpool and Udinese put on an absolute thriller in a high-scoring 3-2 Europa League victory for the Bianconeri on Thursday.
Coming into this match heavily favored, Liverpool seemingly outclassed Udinese in the first half. A fantastic goal by Jonjo Shelvey in the 23rd minute gave the Reds an early 1-0 lead, as it looked that the depth of Liverpool would outshine the top-notch opposition.
Nevertheless, that 1-0 halftime lead would not survive, as the second half turned into an absolute thriller.
From the opening whistle in the second half, Udinese came out on the attack as Antonio Di Natale and Andrea Lazzari connected on a beautiful one-two strike to tie the contest in the 46th minute.
A trade of failed scoring chances had some wondering whether we were about to see a 1-1 draw until a barrage of goals began in the 70th minute.
Soaring on the attack, the Udinese strikers whipped the ball into Liverpool territory where Sebastian Coates made the unfortunate decision to head the ball into his own goal, giving the Bianconeri a 2-1 lead.
In the end, Liverpool made a valiant effort to mount a comeback, but it was to no avail. The loss makes the Reds a shocking third-place team as Group A finishes its second matches.
On the other side of the field, Udinese cannot be anything but happy with the victory. Now equipped with four total points in the standings, the team is in a tie with FC Anji Makhachkala atop the Group A standings.
Regardless of outcome, both sides should feel great about giving fans an absolutely thrilling match.
Grades for Liverpool Players
Jonjo Shelvey: A
His rather brilliant header in the 23rd minute notwithstanding, the 20-year-old midfielder was seemingly ready to dominate from the opening pitch.
It seemed that any time a big play was happening in Liverpool's favor, it was Shelvey who was causing the commotion or was directly in the area to make a play.
Just a virtuoso performance from the rising star.
Sebastian Coates: F
He made the frustrating decision to head the ball instead of taking control of the delivery and wound up providing Udinese with the game-winning goal.
It may be harsh to grade on one play, but not when it cost Liverpool the contest.
Pepe Reina: C
Though his defense (particularly Sebastian Coates) certainly left something to be desired Thursday, there is hardly any excuse for a keeper of Reina's prominence to play this poorly.
Simply put, he did not protect his box well enough for Liverpool to win. With a slight deficit now facing the team in the standings, that cannot happen when the Europa League schedule continues.
Grades for Udinese Players
Antonio Di Natale: A
No matter the circumstances, a goal almost always serves as an automatic A for whoever puts the ball in the net.
That's the case here for Di Natale, whose goal in the 46th minute served as a crushing blow for Liverpool's momentum and tied the match at a 1-1 score.
The 34-year-old striker always has his eyes on the goal, and this match proved yet again how thrilling of a player he can be even at an advancing age.
Andrea Lazzari: A
Talk about making your presence known.
Substituted in for Pablo Armero at the half, Lazzari performed a beautiful one-two move with Di Natale after just a few seconds on the pitch for Udinese's goal.
Mostly a background player for much of his career, the midfielder certainly helped pay for his loan from Fiorentina on Thursday.
Zeljko Brkic: B-
Like his counterpart, the Udinese keeper was not done many favors by his defense.
Nonetheless, allowing two goals will wind up in losses in most matches, and Brkic should thank his lucky stars that his offense was on fire on Thursday.
His late-game saves were the overall saving grace to his grade against Liverpool.
Liverpool's next Europa League match does not come until an Oct. 25 contest against Anji, which will be played in the Reds' home city.
Udinese will also be in action on Oct. 25, as the red-hot squad takes on BSC Young Boys in Moscow.
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