THERE are already enough comedians loitering around Edinburgh this week without Liverpool adding to their number.
And Brendan Rodgers’s second string narrowly avoided becoming a laughing stock when they squeezed to narrow Europa League victory at Hearts last night.
A calamitous own goal from home centre-back Andrew Webster, deflecting home Martin Kelly’s cross 12 minutes from time, allowed Liverpool to take a significant step towards the group stages of the competition.
But while Fabio Borini struck a post for the visitors, this was more an exercise in self-preservation as, similar to their experience at FC Gomel in the previous round, the visitors survived fierce first-half pressure to emerge triumphant.
Nevertheless, Rodgers will hope Liverpool chairman Tom Werner, watching from the stands at Tynecastle, has taken note of the struggle from a team largely comprised of fringe players.
Indeed, the Northern Irishman didn’t need an opposition with shirts emblazoned with Wonga to remind him where his main issue lies.
Liverpool, despite their financial restraints, need reinforcements. And while it appears Nuri Sahin has finally decided on a move to Anfield, more quality signings are needed before the transfer window slams shut next Friday.
Rodgers has made no secret of where the Europa League sits in his list of priorities, the competition slipping even further down the pecking order following Saturday’s dismal opening Premier League defeat at West Bromwich Albion.
With one eye firmly on Sunday’s visit of champions Manchester City, the Anfield manager left Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson on Merseyside alongside the injured Jose Enrique and cup-tied new signing Oussama Assaidi.
And when Andy Carroll failed to recover from a hamstring twinge, it further highlighted the lack of squad depth that has become glaringly apparent to an increasingly concerned Rodgers.
The manager, of course, has the safety net of Thursday’s second leg at Anfield, where he will be expected to wheel out more of his big hitters. However, they may now not be needed.
The opportunity for Liverpool’s fringe players to impress was compromised by a gutsy performance from Hearts, who qualified for the competition having won last season’s Scottish Cup.
Last year, the Jam Tarts had conceded three goals inside the opening half-hour at this stage of the competition before eventually losing 5-0 to Tottenham Hotspur.
But with the boisterous Tynecastle crowd providing rousing backing and Liverpool’s makeshift side struggling to find cohesion, there was never any chance of a repeat.
Charlie Adam – the former Rangers man jeered vociferously by the home fans on his return to Scotland – saw a skimming shot from 25 yards saved by Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald.