Date: 24th August 2012 at 8:05am
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Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers was delighted with his players after they secured a 1-0 first leg advantage in the Europa League tie with Hearts last night…

Brendan Rodgers took a gamble by leaving out a number of first team stars but was rewarded by an efficient display from those selected as the Reds responded positively to the recent defeat to West Bromwich Albion and overcame a battling and at times dangerous Hearts side.

The only goal of the game came after 78 minutes when the unfortunate Andy Webster put a Martin Kelly cross past his own keeper with Fabio Borini lurking.

Borini also hit a post towards the end of the first half but for long spells it was a fairly even contest in front of a partisan Scottish crowd at Tynecastle.

Rodgers reflected on the contest in his post-match interview saying: “It was a good win for us.

“In the first half we showed some good moments. But I think there was a problem with our positioning. If you are going to have good possession you’ve got to have good positioning on the pitch and I don’t think they had that in the first half.

“Second half we were much better. There was good tactical discipline in the team, we worked the ball better from side to side to try and penetrate and that led to the goal which was a well-worked move.

“We’ve got an awful lot of work to do but I was delighted for the players tonight. I thought the commitment was great and when they got the positioning right in the second half, I thought they were excellent at times.”

The absence of the likes of Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel gave the chance for others to shine with 17-year-old Raheem Sterling perhaps the pick of the players on show.

“It was great for me to see some of the players who haven’t been playing as much and some of the young talents as well,” continued Rodgers.

“It gave us a chance to experiment with Downing in the left back position for half an hour or so.

“We had another clean sheet as well which was important. I thought we arrived in some dangerous areas tonight but we didn’t get that crucial touch in the final third.

“It was a tough game, Hearts are an excellent side. And they started the season well. The atmosphere was fantastic and it was good to get a win in a European game and now we hope to finish it in the second leg.”

One player expected to feature but missing due to a hamstring problem was record signing Andy Carroll. The England international has been heavily linked with a move away but Rodgers is hopeful he will be fit for Sunday’s visit of Manchester City.

“He travelled up here, he trained yesterday and it was still a bit tight. The medical advice was that it was still too much of a risk for him to play. It was unfortunate because he has worked well and he was desperate to play,” added Rodgers.

“Hopefully missing the game tonight will allow him to be fit and recover for the weekend.”

The return leg at Anfield takes place next Thursday (30th August) with the winner on aggregate advancing to the Europa League group stage.

Reina, Kelly, Carragher, Agger, Robinson (Downing 62′), Shelvey, Adam, Spearing (Allen 67′), Sterling, Borini (Morgan 90′), Henderson.

Unused subs: Jones, Coates, Flanagan, Lucas.

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