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Liverpool beat Udinese and finish first

Thursday 6 December 2012 21.10 CET
Jordan Henderson is congratulated on his winner for Liverpool

A first-half goal from Jordan Henderson earned Liverpool FC a 1-0 triumph against Udinese Calcio in Italy and confirmed their place in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 as Group A winners.

BSC Young Boys' success over already qualified FC Anji Makhachkala meant the Reds needed a victory to pip the Swiss side in the race to progress from Group A. They duly took the lead after 23 minutes when England midfielder Henderson fired in from close range following a smart pass by Suso. Udinese goalkeeper Daniele Padelli made a series of good saves in the second half to keep the result in the balance, and Antonio Di Natale so nearly levelled matters in added time, but the visitors earned the three points they required.

Despite having nothing to play for but pride, Udinese were more dangerous than Liverpool in the early stages, Mathias Ranégie heading Pablo Armero's cross just wide of Pepe Reina's left-hand post. The Spanish international was then forced to dive and palm over Roberto Pereyra's attempt to lob him.

It was Liverpool, however, who went ahead at their first attempt. Following a corner by Stewart Downing, the ball was glanced on to Suso at the far post. The 19-year-old passed back towards Henderson who beat Padelli with a low right-footed shot.

The lively Diego Fabbrini tested Reina from distance while Luis Suárez drove wide from a good position before forcing Padelli to make a difficult save with a spectacular overhead kick on the stroke of half-time. Soon after the interval the Uruguay striker put Suso one-on-one with Padelli but the forward rifled over.

Padelli's flying stop then denied Henderson his second of the night after the midfielder met José Enrique's cross with the inside of his right foot. The Udinese custodian next thwarted Suárez after he had dribbled past three home defenders. Giovanni Pasquale was sent off with 11 minutes to play, yet Liverpool still had one last scare when Di Natale went close.

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