Liverpool scrape win, Magpies hold Greeks
Liverpool scraped a 1-0 win over Hearts while a Newcastle side shorn of several familiar faces survived sweltering heat to hold Greek side Atromitos to a 1-1 draw in their Europa League play-off round first-legs on Thursday.
Liverpool needed an own-goal from Andy Webster with 12 minutes remaining at Tynecastle to see off Hearts in the absence of several first teamers, including England forward Andy Carroll - persistently linked with a return to Newcastle.
Carroll, nursing a sore hamstring, was not even on the bench as coach Brendan Rodgers fielded Fabio Borini and Raheem Sterling in attack. The Reds also left out Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson with Manchester City to visit in the league on Sunday.
Arvydas Novikovas might have given the Edinburgh side a shock lead, but Pepe Reina saved well in the Liverpool goal before Borini hit the post at the other end. Liverpool made the breakthrough when Martin Kelly sent in a challenging cross from the right which Borini did not connect with only for the unfortunate Webster to deflect into his own net.
Veteran Jamie Carragher praised Liverpool's youngsters, particularly young striker Sterling. "This club's got a great tradition of bringing young players through and the way the manager wants to play suits him [Sterling] down to the ground," said Carragher. "He's come in and done really well and at the age of 17 it looks like he's got a big future."
Newcastle were playing in Europe for the first time in five years, but coach Alan Pardew made nine changes from the side which beat Tottenham in their opening English Premier League match at the weekend to give fringe players some game time. The new faces included Adam Campbell, a second half substitute who became the Magpies' youngest European debutant at 17 years and 236 days - 64 days younger than former favourite Andy Carroll when he played in Palermo in 2006.
Another getting a rare game was former first choice keeper Steve Harper, who at 37 was handed a start with Dutch international Tim Krul giving way.
"In the second half, I was a little bit disappointed we didn't get the win - I thought there were good opportunities - but overall, I was very, very pleased with the performance," said Pardew, who also gave youngsters Romain Amalfitano and James Tavernier chances to prove themselves in stifling heat at the Peristeri Stadium.
Harper was unable to keep a clean sheet as German striker Denis Epstein gave the hosts the lead on 24 minutes before Ryan Taylor fired home a free-kick in first-half stoppage time to give Newcastle a good chance of reaching the group stage with the home leg to come.
Cisse set up a headed chance for Sylvain Marveaux after the break but the Frenchman was unable to find the target. Cisse then saw former Liverpool reserve keeper Charles Itandje deny him late on as the Senegal international attempted to poach a winner before Konstantinos Giannoulis missed a gilt-edged change for the Greeks.
Inter, Levante roll
In other games, former European champions Marseille won 2-1 at Moldova's Sheriff Tiraspol with Andre-Pierre Gignac bagging the winner. Japanese star Keisuke Honda scored the only goal for his Russian outfit CSKA Moscow in a 1-0 win at Sweden's Solna.
Scotland's Motherwell found Spain's Levante too hot to handle, going down to goals from Juanlu and Nabil El Zhar. Inter Milan were 2-0 winners at Vaslui with Esteban Cambiasso and Rodrigo Palacio on target while fellow Italian side Lazio won by the same margin at Slovania's Murta with Brazilian Hernanes and veteran German Miroslav Klose netting.
In Greece, riot police used tear gas to separate fans of PAOK Salonica and Rapid Vienna of Austria, where the Greeks won 2-1 after kickoff was delayed for several minutes.