Hanlon wants top-six finish

BY foxsports • February 15, 2013

Liverpool face an uphill task after losing 2-0 to Zenit St Petersburg in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie.

Second-half goals from Hulk and Sergei Semak punished the Reds after Luis Suarez had missed a host of chances at the other end.

From the off the game was littered with chances, with Aleksandr Kerzhakov forcing Pepe Reina into a smart save and Suarez seeing a chance go wide inside the first two minutes.

Reina pulled out another fine stop to deny the marauding Hulk as Zenit dominated the early stages, but Liverpool remained a threat and Suarez should have put them ahead following an error from Nicolas Lombaerts.

The Belgian centre-back foolishly gave the ball away to Suarez but, while the striker comfortably rounded Vyacheslav Malafeev, he delayed long enough to allow Lombaerts to recover and clear.

Shortly afterwards, Hulk drilled in a shot that beat Reina only to bounce back off the woodwork to safety.

There was still time for a third chance for Suarez before the break, the striker flicking Raheem Sterling's intelligent centre wide as the first-half somehow ended scoreless.

Brendan Rodgers' side began the second half well with Glen Johnson forcing Malakeev into action and Suarez measuring a good chance just wide of the post.

And with the visitors starting to look comfortable, those spurned opportunities proved costly when Hulk blasted a brilliant long-range effort into the top-left corner.

Minutes later things got worse for Liverpool when a cross from the right ran through to substitute Semak and the 36-year-old midfielder tucked the ball away at the far post.

Liverpool pushed for a potentially vital away goal but it was not forthcoming and it will require a big effort to turn the tie around at Anfield next week.

Zenit St Petersburg Team Statistics Liverpool
2 Goals 0
0 1st Half Goals 0
5 Shots on Target 2
3 Shots off Target 5
8 Blocked Shots 2
7 Corners 4
12 Fouls 10
1 Offsides 5
2 Yellow Cards 1
0 Red Cards 0
80.3 Passing Success 76.3
29 Tackles 22
82.8 Tackles Success 77.3
54.1 Possession 45.9
60.2 Territorial Advantage 39.8
519 Total Passes 439
14 Total Crosses 10
163 Lost Balls 184
62 Recoveries 65
58.1 1st Half Poss. 41.9
50.5 2nd Half Poss. 49.5

The 20-year-old trained with the Gills on Thursday and goes straight into their squad for Saturday's home clash against Dagenham.

Richardson is yet to make a first-team appearance for the Magpies but spent time on loan at League One side Leyton Orient last season, making four appearances and scoring once.

His arrival comes after that of Fulham winger Ryan Williams on a 28-day deal.

The Easter Road outfit have won just two out of their past 11 Scottish Premier League and Scottish Cup matches amid an alarming drop in standard.

That ghastly run has also resulted in a concerning fall from a standpoint in second place, where they looked set to mount a challenge to SPL leaders Celtic, to their current position in fifth, where they now need to fear dropping out of the top half of the table altogether.

Monday night's 3-1 home defeat to St Johnstone leaves them just four points above city rivals Hearts in 10th place and just one better off than a three-team bunch that includes Kilmarnock, Dundee United and Aberdeen in the top-flight's tightly-packed midfield.

Hanlon admits to fears about their form but believes the congested nature of the standings may yet save their hopes of once again reaching loftier heights.

The defender told Press Association Sport: "It's concerning because we are not on a good run of results.

"But on the plus side we are not far away, we're still in the mix, and if we can go on a good run of results like we did at the start of the season, then we can be right back up there again.

"If the league wasn't as tight as it is, the run we're on would have put us right down the bottom end and we'd be out of it.

"But we can take confidence from that fact and if we can pick our game up in the next couple of weeks, we still have a chance of being back up at the top end of the table."

Hanlon and his team-mates were rebuked by boss Pat Fenlon for not performing to their best in the defeat by Steve Lomas' Perth men earlier this week.

But the 23-year-old centre-back insisted it was the players' own self-imposed criticisms which ensured the result was no laughing matter.

Now the former Scotland Under-21 cap insists a few wrongs must be righted when the team face St Mirren in Paisley on Saturday.

He said: "There was a few of the dressing-room jokers who came in and tried to lift the spirits when we came back to training. But it didn't work.

"When the boys came in the place was a bit low. Everyone was disappointed. We let everyone down.

"We'd all have preferred the St Mirren game was the next day so we could try and put it right.

"No-one knows why these results happen - if you did you could put it right. Everyone has bad days and we did on Monday.

"There are good teams in this league and if you don't turn up on any given day, you will end up being punished."

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