MOSCOW, October 26 (RIA Novosti)
A powerful strike from Stewart Downing proved crucial as Liverpool defeated big-spending Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala 1-0 at Anfield in the Europa League.
The winger's 53rd-minute strike decided a match in which Liverpool dominated but struggled to unlock the Anzhi defense, and puts the English side top of Group A with six points, with Anzhi second, two points adrift.
Downing picked up a Jonjo Shelvey pass near the left touchline and cut inside, allowing a brief hesitation before hitting a right-footed rocket past Anzhi goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov.
The result ended a 13-game unbeaten run for Guus Hiddink's Anzhi, who missed regular starters Lassana Diarra and Jucilei in midfielder and struggled to provide service to talismanic striker Samuel Eto'o.
Liverpool were denied an apparently legal goal on 80 minutes when Daniel Agger noticed that Vladimir Gabulov was holding the ball on his outstretched palm and nodded it off before knocking the ball into the net to cheers from the Kop.
The referee disallowed the goal and booked Agger for unsporting behavior.
Luis Suarez wasted an early opportunity for the hosts when he hit a soft sixth-minute shot into Vladimir Gabulov's arms, and the Uruguayan came closest to scoring when his long-range shot went narrowly wide minutes after Downing's goal.
Glen Johnson appealed for a penalty when he went down under a challenge while bearing down on goal on 35 minutes, but the referee ignored the Liverpool full-back's pleas.
Anzhi's chances were few and far between until a late flurry.
Perhaps the clearest opportunity came on 70 minutes when Oleg Shatov found Eto'o in a good position in the box, but the Cameroonian's first touch was poor and his snatched shot saved by diving goalkeeper Brad Jones, in for the injured Pepe Reina.
Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez threatened with efforts from the edge of the box, while on 82 minutes, two Anzhi substitutes combined as Shamil Lakhiyalov sent in a low cross for the lanky Lacina Traore, who mistimed his sliding shot and sent the ball wide.
In the other game in Group A, Young Boys Bern beat Udinese 3-1, but remain last in the group, with their Italian opponents third.
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