Udinese fell to a fourth consecutive Europa League defeat, as Jordan Henderson’s goal sends Liverpool through to the next round.
As Young Boys beat Anzhi 3-1 in the other game, all three clubs end on 10 points, but Liverpool go through top with the Russians.
The Friulani were already eliminated from the tournament after three consecutive defeats and Anzhi qualified, but the Reds were level in second place with Young Boys going into this final Group A game. Francesco Guidolin’s men earned a famous 3-2 victory at Anfield in October, but fielded a completely revamped 4-4-1-1 line-up with ex-Liverpool goalkeeper Daniele Padelli starting.
The English club were forced into a substitution after just 12 minutes, as Mathias Ranegie accidentally caught Nuri Sahin in the face with an elbow and after several minutes the nosebleed would not stop, so he had to make way for Jonjo Shelvey.
A Ranegie looping header whistled wide and Diego Fabbrini was booked for a studs-up sliding tackle on Shelvey. Pepe Reina had to fly in order to fingertip a Roberto Pereyra cross-shot out from under the crossbar.
Liverpool took the lead with their first real scoring opportunity. Luis Suarez knocked down a corner and it was pulled back by Suso for a Jordan Henderson angled drive.
Glen Johnson thought he had a second, but Stewart Downing was flagged offside in the build-up. Reina smothered a long-range Fabbrini attempt and in first half stoppages Padelli leapt to fingertip a Suarez overhead kick out from under the crossbar.
Suso turned off target from a very promising position straight after the restart, while Pablo Armero went tearing into the box and Martin Skrtel was alert to intercept. From that corner, Ranegie’s header skimmed the crossbar.
Bad news for Udinese, who lost Mehdi Benatia to yet another injury, so the substitute had to be replaced by 17-year-old Max Reinthaler.
Padelli performed a fantastic save to palm a Henderson volley over the bar. Suarez dribbled past two defenders only for his rising drive to be again pushed out from under the crossbar by Padelli.
Giovanni Pasquale’s fierce volley was charged down in the box, but the midfielder harshly received a second yellow card for a challenge on Raheem Sterling.
Antonio Di Natale came on for the final five minutes to make history, as he matches Valerio Bertotto’s club record of 33 UEFA club competition appearances. He almost made a huge difference too, as with the last kick of the game Udinese went on the counter and his fierce strike skimmed the crossbar by a matter of inches.
Udinese 0-1 Liverpool
Scorers: Henderson 23 (L)
Udinese: Padelli; Faraoni, Heurtaux, Danilo, Pasquale; Pereyra, Badu, Pinzi (Benatia 46) (Reinthaler 65), Armero; Fabbrini; Ranegie (Di Natale 85)
Liverpool: Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Carragher, Enrique; Henderson, Allen, Nuri Sahin (Shelvey 12); Suso (Sterling 71), Suarez, Downing
Ref: Duarte Gomes (POR)
Sent off: Pasquale 75 (U)
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