Udinese achieved an incredible result by fighting back to beat Liverpool 3-2 at Anfield in an historic Europa League night for the little Friulani.
Antonio Di Natale was frozen out at the weekend following a locker room row, but returned to lead the Friulani out at Anfield Road. He was joined by Pablo Armero and Roberto Pereyra in more advanced roles for a reshuffled 4-3-3 system. Liverpool had won their opening Europa League game at Young Boys and had Jonjo Shelvey available despite a domestic ban, but missed Jose Enrique, Martin Kelly, Lucas Leiva and Joe Cole. Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez were rested.
Sebastian Coates went very close with a free header from a corner, but Zeljko Brkic scrambled to beat it off the line and then kicked the loose ball away from danger. At the other end, Pepe Reina got down very quickly to turn a Mehdi Benatia glancing header round the far post from Di Natale’s free kick.
Fabio Borini hit a fresh-air shot and Marco Davide Faraoni picked up a knock to the back of his thigh. While the Inter-owned midfielder was still visibly limping following treatment, Liverpool took the lead.
A cross was whipped in from the right by Stewart Downing and Shelvey was allowed a free header from eight yards as Benatia was caught ball-watching.
A Di Natale cross-shot curled just over the bar, Giovanni Pasquale charged down a Downing effort and Faraoni’s strike was deflected out for a corner.
Andrea Lazzari replaced Armero for the second half and within 33 seconds Udinese were level! Lazzari exchanged passes with Di Natale and put it back into the captain’s path for a fierce finish from the penalty spot into the top corner!
Jordan Henderson charged down a Giampiero Pinzi attempt, then crucial defensive interventions stopped Borini and Henderson from finishing off good attacking moves.
Sensing difficulties, Brendan Rodgers introduced both Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez. Coates needed a tricky challenge to stop Di Natale in the box, but on the counter from that move Pinzi was fortunate to only receive a yellow card for a ludicrous rugby tackle on Downing.
From that free kick, Liverpool thought they had scored when Suarez volleyed it back across the face of goal, but it was accidentally cleared off the line by teammate Shelvey!
Just a minute after that scare, Udinese took the ead at Anfield! Lazzari curled the free kick into the six-yard box, where Coates nodded it into his own net past a stunned Reina.
Liverpool poured forward to get it back on track, but Di Natale held off two defenders and juggled with the ball, his back to goal, like a training ground exercise before passing it back for the on-rushing Pasquale to smash into the far bottom corner.
The Reds did take a chunk out of Udinese’s sudden two-goal lead with a magnificent Suarez free kick in at the near top corner of the net past a flailing Brkic.
Suarez almost made it 3-3 with a header straight at Brkic that the goalkeeper still fumbled before a desperate clearance.
Gerrard’s effort was charged down in the box and Brkic turned a Suarez angled drive round the base of the near post. Raheem Sterling saw his strike deflected over the bar by Danilo and curled another over the bar.
Liverpool 2-3 Udinese
Scorers: Shelvey 23 (L), Di Natale 46 (U), Coates og 70 (U), Pasquale 72 (U), Suarez 74 (L)
Liverpool: Reina; Johnson, Coates, Carragher, Robinson; Henderson (Gerrard 65), Allen, Shelvey; Downing, Borini (Sterling 80), Assaidi (Suarez 65)
Udinese: Brkic; Benatia; Danilo, Domizzi; Faraoni, Badu, Pinzi (Willians 70), Pasquale; Pereyra, Di Natale (Ranegie 85), Armero (Lazzari 46)
Ref: Johannesson (Swe)