Liverpool still have it all to do in Group A of the Europa League after surrendering a half-time lead to lose 3-2 to Udinese in a pulsating encounter at Anfield.
The home side looked in total control for long periods and enjoyed a deserved half-time lead thanks to another European goal from Jonjo Shelvey. But the complexion of the match changed as the excellent Antonio Di Natale scored within seconds of the re-start.
Liverpool then found themselves 3-1 down late on, both goals coming within two minutes after an unfortunate own goal from Sebastian Coates and a Giovanni Pasquale blaster.
And despite Luis Suarez quickly pulling one back, they could not find that all important equaliser.
The match stated at a frantic pace with both sides opting for attacking formations. Oussama Assaidi had an early sighter, his second touch letting him down when well set to shoot. Shelvey, brimming with confidence after his brace against Young Boys, then saw his shot cannon off the defence for a corner as he looked to bend it past the keeper.
With Liverpool gaining the upper hand in possession, Udinese’s raids were sporadic but the dangerous Di Natale always provided the most likely threat. The veteran fired a close warning shot past Reina’s post before delivering a pinpoint free kick onto the head of Mehdi Benetia, forcing Pepe Reina into a wonderful reaction save low down to his left.
Moments later, Liverpool took the lead their dominance in possession warranted, Stewart Downing finding space on the right to deliver a perfect cross to the unmarked Shelvey - his thumping header giving Zeljko Brkic absolutely no chance.
Liverpool continued to press, Jordan Henderson bossing the midfield battle with Downing and Glen Johnson providing a constant menace down the right. And the visitors looked happy to go in and regroup just a goal behind at the break despite Di Natale firing another close effort over Reina’s bar with the outside of his boot.
Coach Francesco Guidolin’s half-time team talk seemed to do the trick and Udinese were ahead within 36 seconds of the restart, half-time sub Andrea Lazzari crossing for Di Natale to sidefoot past Reina with Johnson caught out of position.
The goal stunned Liverpool into action and as they did in the first half, the home side began to dominate. Henderson found his shot blocked by a raft of bodies on the box before Shelvey amazingly failed to convert Suarez’s shot a yard out, the ball instead hitting his standing leg.
Within minutes of nearly equalising, Liverpool were 3-1 behind. Di Natale’s dangerous free kick caused panic in the defence and Coates could only head past Reina into his own net.
And Di Natale was again the provider for the next, juggling the ball whilst holding of Carragher before squaring to Pasquale to rifle past a stunned Reina.
It was hardly what Liverpool deserved but Suarez provided a lifeline within two minutes, curling a sumptuous free kick into the top corner. Inspired, they poured forward in waves and created chance after chance to level.
Suarez was denied another by a point blank save from Brkic and had a further shot parried behind for a corner. Raheem Sterling came on for Fabio Borini and twice came close himself, having one shot blocked before firing just over. One last chance to level fell to Downing but he hit his powerful shot straight at the keeper.
With Anzhi beating Young Boys 2-0 earlier in the day, the result leaves Liverpool third in the table behind Anzhi and Udinese. They next face Anzhi at home on October 25.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Antonio Di Natale – Udinese. The 35-year-old was in irresistible form, his equaliser turning the game on his head. He then twice turned provider to stun Liverpool and roll back the years.
LIVERPOOL: Reina 6, Johnson 7, Coates 6, Carragher 6, Robinson 6, Henderson 7, Allen 6, Shelvey 7, Downing 7, Borini 6, Assaidi 6. Subs: Suarez 7, Gerrard 7, Sterling 7.
UDINESE: Brkic 6, Benatia 6, Danilo 7, Domizzi 6, Faraoni 6, Agyemang-Badu 6, Pinzi 7, Pasquale 8, Pereyra 6, Di Natale 9, Armero 5. Subs:, Ranegie 6, Lazzari 7, Willians 6.