Liverpool, Juventus secure play-off spots

PARIS, Aug 5, 2010 (AFP) - Former European champions Liverpool and Juventus guaranteed a heavyweight presence in the Europa League play-offs on Thursday after wrapping up their qualifying ties.

Roy Hodgson's first home match as Liverpool manager ended in triumph as the five-time European kings overcame Rabotnicki of Macedonia 2-0 at Anfield for a 4-0 aggregate.

First half goals by David Ngog and captain Steven Gerrard were enough to see Liverpool through.

Liverpool's Joe Cole applauds the supporters after his first appearance at Anfield in Liverpool on August 5, 2010. AFP

On a day when the Chinese government's foreign investment arm denied funding a bid for the club, there was no confusion on the pitch about who was going through to the next stage of Europe's second-tier club competition.

Having established a 2-0 first leg lead in Skopje seven days ago, Hodgson's Anfield arrival was never in danger of turning sour.

He made sure of that by naming his strongest side available with Jamie Carragher and Glen Johnson starting along with Gerrard while new signing Joe Cole also impressed by setting up Ngog's headed opener.

"It's nice to be in the next round although, quite honestly, I thought we would be after that good performance in Skopje," said Hodgson.

"It was important tonight to be disciplined and have a quality performance and we certainly did that. Obviously we're just delighted to be in the next round, I'm sure that round will prove tougher than this one."

Cole was delighted with his home debut and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet, hitting the woodwork in the second half.

"I was nervous before the game but it's always like that when you go to a new club," said former Chelsea star Cole.

"It was good to get 90 minutes in and get the win in the end. The main difference (at Anfield as a Liverpool player) is that I wasn't getting too much stick. That's different."

Juventus rested a host of stars, but still moved into the next round with Alessandro Del Pierro coming off the bench to score the only goal in a 1-0 win over Irish side Shamrock Rovers.

The Italians had won the first leg 2-0 in Dublin last week.

Australian star Harry Kewell scored twice as Turkish side Galatasary made sure of their place in Friday's play-off draw with a 5-1 win at OFK Belgrade for a 7-3 aggregate.

Kewell struck in the 22nd minute and also converted a 57th-minute penalty.

Red Star Belgrade, who were 1991 European Cup winners, were knocked out by Slovan Bratislava despite a 1-1 draw in Slovakia. The Serbian side had lost the first leg at home 2-1 a week ago.

A day after Celtic crashed out of the Champions League, Motherwell salvaged a little Scottish pride with a 3-0 win over Norway's Aalesund for a 4-1 aggregate win.

Jamie Murphy, John Sutton scored in the in the opening 13 minutes at Fir Park with substitute Jonathan Page adding a third in the last minute for Craig Brown's team.

Fellow Scottish Premier League side Hibernian, 3-0 down from the first leg against Maribor of Slovenia, were knocked after losing the return 3-2 at Easter Road.

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