Liverpool couldn't fully capitalize on another dominating performance in terms of possession on Thursday, but one goal was all it took against Serie A opponent Udinese. The visiting Reds managed to leave Stadio Friuli in Italy with a 1-0 victory to win Group A of the UEFA Europa League, clinching a spot in the final 16 knockout stage.
Midfielder Jordan Henderson—who had only two goals in 44 prior appearances for Liverpool—notched the game's lone goal in the 23rd minute. Off of a corner kick from Stewart Downing, striker Luis Suarez headed the ball wide by the right post.
However, 19-year-old Suso was there to retrieve it and redirect it to Henderson, who fired it into the back of the net amidst a chaotic cluster in the box to give the Reds the deciding edge.
It was a game filled with opportunity for Liverpool, and Udinese Calcio never really had a chance. That has frequently been the case of the Reds' recent opponents, as Opta Liverpool's Twitter page observed:
3 - Liverpool have had more than 60% of possession in their last 3 matches (65% vs Spurs - 64% vs Southampton - 62% vs Udinese). Dominance.— Opta Liverpool (@OptaLiverpool) December 6, 2012
Perhaps that last word reflects a bit of bias and favoritism, but it is hard to dispute the notion. Unfortunately for the Zebrette, the 2012-13 season hasn't been supremely memorable. They rank ninth out of 20 in the Serie A standings, and failed to win in group play in the Europa League.
A match against Liverpool wasn't exactly what Udinese needed, and its cause wasn't helped by a red card from defender Giovanni Pasquale at 79'.
But Francesco Guidolin's club fought hard against a difficult English Premier League, and despite the fact that the Reds are in the middle of the pack in the EPL themselves, it should give the Zebrette some confidence to finish out the year.
Here is a look at the grades for some of the most prominent players in this Europa League fixture.
Jordan Henderson: A+
The Liverpool midfielder played stellar football on both sides of the pitch, and has to be considered the man of the match courtesy of the only goal. Henderson could have had another, if not for an exceptional save by Udinese goalkeeper Daniele Padelli.
Jamie Carragher: A
An inconsequential yellow card at 82' isn't enough to knock many points off an otherwise fantastic performance from the Reds' fullback. When Udinese did have the ball in Liverpool territory, Carragher largely shut down the attack and was a big reason his club was able to post a clean sheet as the visitors.
Daniele Padelli: B+
Despite the Reds dominating possession once again Padelli held his ground against his former club. The goal by Henderson was essentially unstoppable, and the goalkeeper played a phenomenal match otherwise to give his club a chance.
Giovanni Pasquale: C-
The Zebrette defender put his side a man down in the fixture's final 10 minutes, which ultimately limited strategy and prevented Udinese from salvaging a point at home. Granted, his second foul wasn't intentional, but Pasquale notched two yellow cards in a matter of 12 minutes, which is irresponsible and warrants a lower grade.