Liverpool stays undefeated in Europa
Liverpool made it 10 Europa League matches without defeat this season but in truth there was nothing momentous in the Group K winners’ goalless draw at home to FC Utrecht.
Manager Roy Hodgson made a last-minute decision to leave striker Fernando Torres out of the starting line-up and the closest his side came to scoring was when Milan Jovanovic hit the crossbar in the eighth minute.
Torres never made it off the substitutes’ bench as the Reds, who had already qualified for the last 32, extended their run without ever coming close to putting in a decent performance.
Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson offered an apology for not playing Torres. On Tuesday the Reds boss had pledged to play his one fit star name but admitted he had been persuaded to see "the error of his ways" by the club’s medical staff.
The Spain international sat on the bench for the entire game and watched his team-mates labour against the Dutch visitors in their final Group K game, which was a dead rubber as Liverpool had already secured top spot.
"With discussions with the conditioning people in particular they persuade me to see the error of my ways even though I had this vision of Fernando going out there and having a great 45 minutes and maybe scoring a goal and giving him a lift," he said.
"He was quite looking forward to playing but when I got back to the club in the afternoon (after his press conference) and started to talk about it again it seemed to me the potential disadvantages far outweighed the potential advantages."
Liverpool gave away free tickets to youngsters for the game but Hodgson denied he had tried to increase interest by raising the prospect of Torres’ involvement.
"There was no question of needing a name to sell the game. I did honestly think it was a good thing," he said.
"I didn’t mean to mislead you. The physical conditioning people said to me that in any game there is a risk of injury.
Despite the lacklustre performance, striker Dirk Kuyt believes Liverpool have a great chance of winning the Europa League.
The Dutchman savoured his appearance as substitute against Utrecht, the team with whom he began his professional career.
He said: "We have a couple of targets and obviously we like to win trophies.
"I think we have a very good chance to win this trophy.
"It’s good to be top of the group, and we’ll wait and see who our next opponent is."