After The Match 


Liverpool-Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 (2-0)  Tue Feb 22.      Champions L.
Goals: Garcia (15), Riise (35), Hamann (90)           Franca (90)
Team: Dudek, Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Traore, Riise, Hamann, Biscan, Garcia, Kewell, Baros
Subs: Le Tallec (Kewell 76), Potter (Baros 85), Smicer (Riise 89)
Not used: Carson, Warnock, Nunez, Welsh
Yellow: Dudek (52), Hamann (58)       Ponte (44), Freier (50)
Red: None
Referee: Kyros Vassaras (Greece)
Attendance: 40,952

                           MATCH-REPORTS & RESULTS 
Shots on target:
Shots off target:
Fouls conceded:




HEADLINES "This is a big week
for us and we've
started it well."

       Jamie Carragher


2302: Kewell rubbishes "one-man team" tag
2302: Dudek frustrated by error
2302: Carra still confident
2302: Owen happy for Reds
2302: Benitez: Reds on course
2302: Leverkusen coach blasts his dummies
2202: Reds in driving seat


Kewell rubbishes "one-man team" tag

Sporting Life

Fit-again winger Harry Kewell insists Liverpool have destroyed the myth that they lean too heavily on Steven Gerrard.

The Australian wideman made his return to the first team in Liverpool's impressive victory over German giants Bayer Leverkusen, a match which suspended captain Gerrard had to watch from the stands.

Kewell was back in action after recent groin and Achilles problems and lasted 77 minutes, proving his match fitness and putting himself in line to start against Chelsea in Sunday's Carling Cup final.

Much of the pre-game focus had centred on how Liverpool would cope without Gerrard, but they hardly missed his presence as Igor Biscan took on his central midfield role and laid on the opening goal in a 3-1 win for Luis Garcia.

"Obviously Steven Gerrard is a great player, but whether he is playing or not, the rest of the team always go out confident they can do a good job," said Kewell.

"Sometimes it doesn't come off, sometimes it does, but that doesn't mean we do not know what to do and we always give 110%.

"People keep saying we are a one-man team, but they can have their own opinions about Liverpool at the moment, we don't really care abut what people say. We know what we can do.

"We proved it against Leverkusen, now we hope we can get that momentum going and continue it that way."

Liverpool have had to cope with a growing injury list this season, denying them the international class of Djibril Cisse and Xabi Alonso on Tuesday night and, in the Frenchman's case, for the rest of the campaign. Fernando Morientes was also cup-tied.

Kewell added: "Obviously if you take out world-class players from any team it is a problem if they are not there.

"We had several missing, Cisse is a world-class player, Morientes is world class and Gerrard is also world class. We are without Alonso as well as Chris Kirkland, but what that shows is there is strength in depth here.

"The quality of the players that the manager has brought in just underlines that. The team goes out and really works hard for each other, sometimes results come but we are all confident of what we can do.

"As for me, there always things I can improve on and I am the first person to criticise myself. I know there were a few things I could have done better.

"We are always together as a team, people keep trying to knock us down by saying bad things about us but we have always been a united team.

"Every time we go out on the pitch we feel we are a team, sometimes things don't come off but we are always together as a team and work hard to get the result."

Kewell's return had been overshadowed by a wrangle between Anfield boss Rafael Benitez, his agent Bernie Mandic and Australia national team coach Frank Farina.

Benitez is furious with what he claims is interference in the medical treatment of the 26-year-old.

However Mandic has hit back, saying he is "not involved" in Kewell's recuperation, while Farina says he has "no problem" with the way Liverpool are handing the situation.

Kewell admits he still feels the groin injury, but he remains upbeat about his role in the Liverpool team.

"The injury problem is still there, it is not something that is going to go away and I will have to sit down with the manager and talk about it and see what happens," he added.

"I can still feel the problem in my groin and everyone is doing their best to get it right, which is fantastic for me.

"I won't be rested, I want to play in every single game but it is the manager's choice, it's up to him, whatever he decides.

"There has been some stuff said, but it is people who don't know anything and they just want to say what they want to say. They don't have the full facts.

"The facts are that I am working with the club and we are trying to get this problem solved, it is as simple as that. There has never been any other problem and query about it, it is just people who make things up.

"I think the manager just wants to put a stop to it all and that is fair enough. It doesn't bother me what people say about me, it never has."

Dudek frustrated by error

By Adam Marshall - Sky Sports

Jerzy Dudek is trying to keep his spirits up after a late error allowed Bayer Leverkusen a lifeline in the UEFA Champions League.

The German side were on the brink of a comprehensive 3-0 defeat that would have rendered the second leg a formality until Dudek spilled a long range shot by Dimitar Berbatov and Franca pounced to give the visitors some hope.

Dudek was culpable for Wayne Rooney's recent winner at Anfield and has had to face criticism of his form with Leeds United's Scott Carson brought to Merseyside last month as cover.

"I think it was a shot from the edge of the box," Dudek told Sky Sports News.

"The ball bounced before me and hit my shoulder. It was perfect for the striker for the rebound.

"You know, it is always very unlucky for the keeper.

"It's very, very frustrating.

"You can say that I have to keep my head up.

"We won the game which is very important before the second leg."

Rafa Benitez's side will still be confident of reaching the quarter finals of Europe's premier competition but the late strike does mean the tie is not yet sealed.

Carra still confident

By Al Campbell - LFC Online

Jamie Carragher still believes Liverpool will overcome Bayer Leverkusen despite the Germans' late away goal.

Liverpool go to the Bay Arena in two weeks time with a commanding 3-1 win, but it could have been much better if Jerzy Dudek hadn't fumbled an easy shot in the last minute of stoppage time to give Bayer an away goal.

Jamie Carragher was disappointed to concede a late goal but is confident the Reds can cancel it out by scoring an away goal of their own in Leverkusen.

He said: "3-1 is a very good result for us. People were talking before the match about how 0-0 or 1-0 would be a good result because we were without Steven Gerrard, but we've done better than that.

"It was disappointing that they scored a late goal but we can't worry about that too much. We have to make sure we go over there and score a goal of our own. Obviously we'll have to keep it tight and make sure we don't concede, but I'm confident that if we can get at them and put them under pressure then we can finish the job off.

"Obviously we'll have Steven Gerrard back for that game and that will be a big boost for us. Having said that, I thought Didi and Igor were superb last night and Steven wasn't really missed.

"It's a good result for us and now we can look forward to the cup final on Sunday. I'm looking forward to watching how Chelsea get on against Barcelona now and then taking them on in the final. This is a big week for us and we've started it well."

Owen happy for Reds

Daily Post

Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen, a late substitute for Ronaldo last night in Real Madrid's 1-0 win over Juventus, was delighted by news of his old club's 3-1 victory over Bayer Leverkusen.

Asked whether he thought Liverpool would now go on to the last eight, he said: "You would hope so, wouldn't you?

"They have a scoreboard here (at the Bernabeu) and there's me sitting on the bench for the majority of the game, and I kept seeing Liverpool score another goal and another goal.

"I remember it being 3-0 and I found out just after the game that it was 3-1.

"Unfortunately they've managed to nick one late on against my old team - they've got to be in the driving seat, but they'll probably be kicking themselves for conceding that late goal."

Benitez: Reds on course


Rafael Benitez insists Liverpool can still reach the Champions League quarter-finals despite Jerzy Dudek's injury-time mistake which gave Bayer Leverkusen the lifeline of an away goal.

Beaten 3-1, the Germans feel they can repeat the victory they achieved over Liverpool three years ago in their own BayArena, to book their place in the semi-finals having been 1-0 down from the first leg.

But Liverpool boss Benitez said: "Before the game if you had said the score will be 3-1 I would have happily accepted that. At 2-0 it was good; at 3-0 it was great - but I accept that 3-1 was not the best.

"You must realise that you have to concentrate right to the very last seconds of a game at this level.

"But for me it was not Jerzy Dudek's fault. He had played a very good game - and had we scored our other chances, nobody would be talking about about their goal. It would not have mattered.

"If we had scored our other chances it would not have been worth remembering that last goal. In my opinion Jerzy played well, made two very fine saves - and I am happy with him.

"I have confidence that we can complete the task in Germany; I am always confident and we must be positive. If we lose 2-0 we are out but I think we can score in Germany - certainly one, and that will make all the difference."

Leverkusen coach blasts his dummies

By Trevor Huggins - Reuters

Bayer Leverkusen manager Klaus Augenthaler has compared his team to training ground dummies after they slumped to a 3-1 Champions League defeat at Liverpool.

While Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez defended Jerzy Dudek after his goalkeeping blunder in stoppage time gifted the Germans a priceless away goal, there was a scathing verdict from Augenthaler on his men.

Free kicks decided the knockout round first leg tie, with Norwegian John Arne Riise and German midfielder Dietmar Hamann scoring directly after Spaniard Luis Garcia had opened Liverpool's account after 15 minutes.

"This really shouldn't have happened," Augenthaler told a news conference on Tuesday.

"On the first free kick, (Paul) Freier moved out of the wall which enabled the ball to go where it went.

"On the second, our defenders looked like the dummies you use in a training session who can't jump up. That's what our wall looked like."

However, Augenthaler was buoyed by Dudek's fumble, which allowed Brazilian substitute Franca to grab an away goal and leave the Germans needing a 2-0 win or better in the home leg to reach the quarter-finals.

"The 3-0 virtually killed the game off -- but our goal has given us a lifeline," he said.

"Given that in the group stages we beat Roma, Real Madrid and Dynamo Kiev at home by the margin required to go through, we will have a chance. All we have to do now is get this game out of our system."

Leverkusen were 3-0 winners over Real and Kiev and beat Roma 3-1 in the group phase.

Reds in driving seat

By Graeme Bailey - Planet Football/Sky Sports

Liverpool have one foot in the UEFA Champions League quarter finals after a 3-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen at Anfield.

Rafa Benitez was without his inspirational skipper Steven Gerrard - suspended - and top marksman Fernando Morientes - cup-tied - but his tactics were spot-on as he masterminded a superb win.

Liverpool were unspectacular and rode their luck at times, but goals from Luis Garcia, John Arne Riise and Dietmar Hamann gave them the crucial win and surely a big enough advantage to take to the BayArena in two weeks - although Franca's late goal means Bayer are not yet dead and buried.

Things could have been different had Bayer took any of the plethora of chances they created in the opening period.

After a dour opening ten minutes, the game sprang to life as Bayer carved open The Reds with their first meaningful attack.

Paul Freier skipped his way down the right and past the hapless Djimi Traore before pulling the ball back for Robson Ponte, who could only sky his effort into The Kop from 15 yards.

A nervous looking Jerzy Dudek then palmed away a Dimitar Berbatov drive as Bayer looked the most likely to score.

Liverpool were seemingly happy to play deep and try and catch Bayer on the break and they did that with great aplomb just moments later.

Igor Biscan, filling in for Gerrard, burst past two challenges in the middle of the park, before playing a wonderful ball through to Luis Garcia - who sprang the Bayer offside trap and fired the ball low past Hans-Jorg Butt.

Berbatov again tried his luck from distance as Bayer looked for a quick leveller and they should have got it when the Bulgarian was handed a gilt-edged chance by some poor Liverpool defending.

Steve Finnan looked to head a lofted ball back to goal, but his header struck Sami Hyypia and into the path of Berbatov - who had a clear run on goal - but with Dudek beaten he fired wide of the post from the edge of the area.

Ponte then managed to get an effort on goal but it was straight at Dudek as again the Germans pushed.

It always looked likely that the Germans would rue their missed chances and Liverpool added another ten minutes before the interval following a period of good pressure.

The goal came thanks to a controversial free kick as Juan clashed with Harry Kewell on the edge of the area, with contact only looking minimal. But Riise did not hang around and he curled home a wonderful free kick past Butt at his near post - although the German wall could well have done better.

With two goals in hand, Liverpool knew the match, and even possibly the tie, was within their grasp and they were happy to sit back and let Biscan dictate the play from the middle of the park - which he did brilliantly throughout.

On 54 minutes this point was illustrated wonderfully as the giant Croat majestically broke from his own half and picked out Milan Baros - who found Riise on the left, he skipped his way into the area before finding the Czech striker again - but he curled his effort wide of the post when he should have done better.

There was still danger for Liverpool though, and Bayer again missed a wonderful chance to grab an away goal. A nice move on the edge of the Liverpool area saw Diego Placente thread a neat ball into the area for Andrej Voronin - but the long-haired striker could only find the top of the net.

Liverpool's chances were almost solely coming through Biscan and again he created as he threaded through Kewell with just 20 minutes left but the Australian fired into the side netting from the edge of the area.

Bayer were now pressing hard, but that only made Liverpool's counter attacking easier and they should have made it three when Riise played a sensational ball with the outside of his left boot into Baros's path - but again the chance went begging as Butt deflected the ball wide.

The resulting corner also saw a great chance fall to the home side as Hyypia headed down for Jamie Carragher, whose effort from two yards was well saved by Butt.

Dudek then showed he was equal to Butt, as he produced two great saves - firstly a 30-yard volley from Freier which he somehow managed to tip wide and then moments later he somehow bettered that as he blocked a thunderous volley from Bernd Schneider - making a rare foray up the field from right back.

Liverpool had been sitting back, while still dictating the play - but the last ten minutes saw Bayer dominate.

Substitute Landon Donovan had a good chance on the edge of the area, but he was denied by a great challenge from Carragher.

Just when both teams looked to have settled for the result - Liverpool struck again with another clinical set-piece.

Juan gave away another free kick on the edge of the area - this time fully justified. With Riise off the pitch, Hamann stepped up and he curled the ball over the wall and into the back of the net giving fellow countryman Butt no chance.

Still the game had something left as Bayer pulled a goal back with virtually the last kick of the game.

Berbatov fired in another long-range effort straight at Dudek, but the Pole spilled the ball and Franca was on hand to poke the ball home.

Liverpool had all but sealed their place in the last eight until Dudek's late error and although the lead should be more than enough for The Reds - Benitez will be fuming with his keeper.

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Thor Zakariassen