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Liverpool 1, Besiktas 0: First Thoughts

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European football resumed with a late victory over Besiktas.

The match was worth it because of victory, a Balotelli goal, and this.
The match was worth it because of victory, a Balotelli goal, and this.
Julian Finney/Getty Images

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Liverpool 1 Balotelli 84 (pen.)'
Besiktas 0

  • Pre-match thoughts: After Lazar Marković's harsh four-match ban by UEFA after he was sent off in the Champions League group stage draw with FC Basel, Liverpool's side side was unchanged apart from the inclusion of Jordan Ibe for the unfortunate Marković. Raheem Sterling returned to the bench.

  • Liverpool attacked predominantly through the right flank with Ibe and Daniel Sturridge prominent in the first twenty minutes. Liverpool's possession and general territorial advanatge didn't bring an early goal. The skilful Gökhan Töre was likely to be a danger along with Demba Ba, and he made some lively runs that took him into a direct battle with Mamadou Sakho.

  • Liverpool were warned of the danger of set-pieces and not taking chances after Besiktas midfielder Kavlak flashed a header wide on the 32 minute mark. A couple of minutes later Demba Ba was put through on goal after a counter attack, but his relatively tame shot was palmed wide by the in-form Simon Mignolet. Liverpool lacked composure defending the subsequent corner and needed to control the ball a little better.

  • Alberto Moreno's impressive shot from distance tested the away keeper with mere minutes left in the half, but no breakthrough was found by half-time.

  • Half-time thoughts: Liverpool weren't particularly bad, just lacked the tempo set in the early stages of the game. Liverpool needed to vary up the attacking gameplan, as the predictable pass to the right side of attack was expected by Besiktas defenders who ensured that their left back had protection against the pacy Ibe.

  • After an early chance missed by Adam Lallana with the goal inviting him to score, Liverpool were exposed by Besiktas on a number of occasions on the right side of defence within the first ten minutes of the second half. 

  • Brendan Rodgers made a couple of interesting substitutions as he brought on Mario Balotelli and Dejan Lovren for Joe Allen and Philippe Coutinho on 62 minutes. Emre Can moved into midfield, Lovren took his place in defence, and Balotelli offered greater support for Daniel Sturridge. Raheem Sterling replaced Adam Lallana on 77 minutes as Liverpool looked for something from a game that didn't go entirely according to plan.

  • It was Jordon Ibe who was crucial to a Liverpool breakthrough as he was fouled in the area for a slightly soft penalty. There was a little debate about who should take the penalty in the absence of Mario Balotelli, but there was no mistake from the Italian who sent Besiktas goalkeeper Gönen the wrong way to score. Advantage Liverpool.

  • Full-time thoughts: Liverpool won the game with clean sheet, which is the best way to win a first leg at home. The performance wasn't as convincing as the one away to Crystal Palace, but Liverpool head into the Southampton game with victories over Tottenham Hotspur, Crystal Palace, and Besiktas in three different competitions. Not bad at all.

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We'll be back shortly to take an in-depth look at everything that happened in today's game with the full recap. Until then, let us know your take on the ups and downs of the match in the comments, and if you haven't already, join the community on the Liverpool Offside, where we'll have full coverage and lively in-game discussion for every match this season.