After The Match 


Lyon-Liverpool 1-1 (0-0)              4.11.09                           CL
Goals: Babel (83)         Lisandro (90)
Team: Reina, Carragher, Agger, Kyrgiakos, Insua, Kuyt, Lucas, Mascherano, Benayoun, Voronin, Torres
Subs: Babel (Voronin 68), Ngog (Torres 87)
Not used: Cavalieri, Aquilani, Spearing, Darby, Ayala
Yellow: Agger (33)        Lisandro (34)
Red: None
Referee: Frank De Bleeckere
Attendance: 39,180
Shots on target: 5-6
Shots off target: 8-2
Blocked shots: 2-3
Fouls conceded: 14-23
Corners: 2-5
Offsides: 2-2
Possession: 45.6-54.4
Yellow: 1-1
Red: 0-0
HEADLINES "Clearly it is difficult now, but not impossible."
Rafael Benitez
0511: Dirk Kuyt: Liverpool's Champions League
          draw with Lyon feels like a defeat

0511: Reds' European hopes on the brink
0411: How we can still qualify
0411: Carra keeps faith in Reds
0411: Benitez: I don't fear for my job
0411: Puel hails Lyon courage
0411: Lyon late show leaves Reds reeling     

Dirk Kuyt: Liverpool's Champions League
draw with Lyon feels like a defeat

By Giles Mole - The Daily Telegraph

Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt has said the club's 1-1 Champions League draw with Lyon last night felt as bad as a defeat as the pressure mounts on Rafa Benitez.

Liverpool were leading 1-0, thanks to a superb 25-yard strike from Ryan Babel, right up until the dying seconds before Lisandro Lopez snuck through to equalise, sending Lyon into the knockout stages of the Champions League and tipping the Anfield club towards the Europa League of Everton and Fulham.

Liverpool are now five points behind second-placed Fiorentina with two rounds of games to play.

They must claim maximum points from their remaining two Group E fixtures with Debrecen and Fiorentina, and hope Lyon can secure a result against the Italians.

"It feels like a defeat," said Kuyt. "I think we deserved to win, but we conceded in the last minute and everyone is really disappointed.

"It's out of our hands now, but we stuck together as a team here and everyone put a lot of effort into the game.

"We showed character and that's what we have to do at this stage. We deserved more, but all we can do is work hard and be ready for the next game.

"If we keep working hard like this, things will change quickly. The most important thing is we as players, staff and a team are sticking together and we want to fight - I am sure we will come back stronger."

Goalkeeper Pepe Reina has said Liverpool will continue to fight for their Champions League survival right until it is mathematically impossible to qualify.

He said: "I am really disappointed because I think we played one of our best games of the season so far, but we did not get the result we wanted.

"I thought we'd done enough to win. We didn't deserve to lose at home when we played Lyon, and we didn't deserve to draw here, but that's the way it is and we have to face it.

"We were really unlucky but it's the way things are going at the moment. We have to keep fighting while we have a chance.

"At the moment we are not in the best situation, but I think we have a strong character and enough quality to sort things out.

"All we can do is play with desire and passion and try to be more consistent.

"The worst thing is we are not depending on ourselves. We need Lyon to get a result in Fiorentina, but all we can do, and have to do, is win in Hungary.

"We will keep fighting and the least we can do is win our two remaining games."

Reds' European hopes on the brink

By Dominic King - Liverpool Echo

Stadium announcers are not renowned for making statements of great resonance but the man whose duty it was warm the crowd up here last night did
just that

“The UEFA Champions League gives us the opportunity to see the best teams in Europe,” he proclaimed, shortly before the teams from Lyon and Liverpool marched out on to Stade de Gerland.

Though there was nothing revelatory about those words, they should strike a chord with those Liverpudlians who are trying to search for positives after this tumultuous campaign took another dramatic twist.

We should have been chronicling on these pages today how ironic it was that in the city which is home to the headquarters of Interpol, Liverpool launched the first part of what they hoped would culminate in another great escape.

Instead their presence in the Champions League is in the gravest danger after another Lyon late show left them on the brink of elimination.

Should Fiorentina beat Lyon on match-day five, nothing Liverpool do in Budapest against Debrecen will be good enough to save them and that, gallingly, will consign them to the Europa League in the New Year.

It just goes to show progress in this prestigious, lucrative tournament can never be taken for granted; some may have become blasé about playing the likes of Real Madrid and Inter but this impending calamity will jolt them into life.

But it should have been so different. Having taken a gamble on Fernando Torres’ fitness, Rafa Benitez deserved better than to see his patched-up, diligent squad get floored in such dramatic circumstances.

From the first whistle it was clear to see Torres was severely restricted, every sudden sprint or move left him rubbing his side, while there were occasions when it was palpably obvious that even trying to control the ball was a huge effort.

Yet the problem – if you can call it that – of having Torres in your squad is you simply want him to play whenever and wherever; few possess his sumptuous ability and even with one leg, he offers a threat which many strikers can only dream.

Typical, then, Liverpool’s first clear opportunity fell to him, a shot from 12 yards that had Lyon keeper Hugo Lloris on red alert; it was the kind of chance a fully fit Torres might well have snaffled.

No matter. It might not have provided the goal every Red craved but the shot did at least spark some belief and, from that point in proceedings, Liverpool bossed the first half, both in terms of opportunities and possession.

Dirk Kuyt’s improvisation caused a moment of great anxiety for Lloris, his lob had the Frenchman scurrying backwards to prevent Liverpool taking the lead, while Andriy Voronin squandered a golden opening following good work by Lucas.

Mind you, that was no surprise. Voronin, after all, is not what you would describe as prolific and his biggest critics would argue that even if this hirsute Ukrainian threw his comb at the floor he would still miss.

Other than the odd breakaway, Lyon were causing Liverpool no trouble at all but that, bizarrely, actually made this situation all the more perplexing – in top form and at full strength, Benitez would surely have seen his men cruise past their Gallic hosts.

A statement borne of bias? No. Cast your mind back to the first meeting between the sides at Anfield last month and you will remember that for 75 minutes, it was a question of how many a spirited Liverpool would win by.

In control after Yossi Benayoun’s strike, Fabio Aurelio, Kuyt and David Ngog were all presented with the opportunities to get the European campaign back on track but all fluffed their lines.

Only when anxiety and tiredness took over did Lyon start to exert themselves; it was Liverpool’s bad fortune that the one-time perennial Ligue 1 champions had the wherewithal to take maximum advantage.

Some will say that is excuse making and that is there prerogative but recent history shows Liverpool have flattened sides with far greater quality than Lyon; if they don’t make it out of Group E, they will know how good a chance has been missed.

Reputation, you see, counts for so much in football and while there is no disputing Liverpool have played poorly frequently since the middle of August, they still cause opposition teams to think twice?

How else do you explain Lyon, normally a side that plays with such verve on home soil and score freely, being so inhibited last night, relying primarily on counterattacks rather than trying to impose themselves.

Lyon improved marginally after the break yet Liverpool still looked the more likely of the two to break the deadlock and that should have been the case when Lucas found himself with only Lloris to beat from eight yards.

Fortunately it was not a moment Lucas – the star performer in this disciplined display – lived to regret as Babel produced the moment of outrageous quality of which his biggest fans have always insisted he is capable.

Nothing seemed on when he picked up possession 25 yards from goal but a shuffle and a shimmy later, Babel had worked some space for himself and smashed an unstoppable drive past Lloris. In fitting with the way things are going, though, the giddy high was followed by a heartbreaking low as Lisandro took advantage of a mix-up in Liverpool’s penalty area to snatch victory away from them.

Even at the best of times, conceding such a late equaliser would have been hard to stomach but in these demanding circumstances, it was almost impossible to stomach, a point confirmed by the expressions Benitez and his players sported at the final whistle.

Only time will tell whether this proves to be a fatal blow to ambitions and many will be quick to write them off now that fate is out of their hands; but while there is time, there is still hope – and Benitez, for one, will not be throwing in the towel just yet.

How we can still qualify

By Paul Eaton - LFC Official Website

With just two matches left to play in Group E of the Champions League our European destiny for this season is no longer in our own hands.

Lyon's last minute leveller in the Stade Gerland on Wednesday night means we are now relying on other results if we are to stand a chance of qualifying for the next stage of the competition.

Matchday 5 in three weeks time sees Liverpool travelling to face Debrecen while Fiorentina host Lyon in Italy.

Liverpool have to win both of their remaining games to stand any chance of going through to the last sixteen.

Here are the all-important permutations ahead of the next round of matches:

Liverpool beat Debrecen and Fiorentina beat Lyon: Liverpool are out.

Liverpool beat Debrecen and Fiorentina draw with Lyon: Liverpool need to beat Fiorentina by three goals in their final game to go through.

Liverpool beat Debrecen and Fiorentina lose to Lyon: Any Liverpool victory over Fiorentina in their last game will take them through.

Carra keeps faith in Reds

By Elliot Ball - Sky Sports

Jamie Carragher vows Liverpool will fight to keep their UEFA Champions League hopes alive despite a late lapse in Lyon which left their qualification hopes hanging in the balance.

Lisandro Lopez's injury-time equaliser to cancel out Ryan Babel's 83rd minute screamer means progression into the last 16 of the Champions League is out of their hands.

The Reds must win their final two Group E matches, first at Debrecen before an Anfield showdown with second-placed Fiorentina, to stand any chance of a place in the knock-out stages.

But even then it could count for nothing should the Italians manage to beat Lyon in their own backyard later this month, yet Carragher has refused to concede the Merseysiders face an impossible task.

"We still believe we will get through," said the veteran defender, who was forced to play at right-back in France after injuries ravaged the Premier League outfit's back-line.

"We know it's going to be difficult but we're not out of it yet. All we can do is win our next two games and see what happens.

"We have been in difficult positions before and we've come through like in 2005 and when we had to win in Marseille in the group stages and we came through. It's disappointing but a draw doesn't mean we're totally out of it."

Meanwhile, Carragher was quick to leap to the defence of besieged boss Rafa Benitez who is certain to come under more pressure following another setback for his inconsistent side.

Carragher added: "If you look at the manager's record in Europe we've won it and been to the final and semi-final and quarter-finals. So our Champions League record under the manager has been superb."

Benitez: I don't fear for my job

Sporting Life

Rafael Benitez insists he does not fear for his job even though Liverpool now need a miracle to reach the last 16 of the Champions League.

The Liverpool boss had seen victory snatched from his team by Lyon, who equalised through Lisandro Lopez in the dying seconds of their Group E clash at the Stade Gerland on Wednesday night.

Ryan Babel had fired Liverpool ahead with just seven minutes to go, but they still left with a 1-1 draw despite a vastly improved performance.

Liverpool now must rely on Lyon winning away to Fiorentina in their next match, and hope they will still have their destiny in their own hands in their final group matches against Debrecen and the Florence club.

Benitez's own position has been under threat during Liverpool's recent horror run, but when asked if he feared for his job, the Spaniard was quick to respond.

"No, I am only thinking about the next game, nothing else," he said.

Benitez, who also revealed that striker Fernando Torres played through the pain barrier for the 87 minutes he was on the pitch, remains hopeful his side can still progress even though the odds are stacked against them.

He said: "We have to be really disappointed, we had so many chances and we were almost there.

"But again it was a late goal by Lyon, and it is a massive difference for us.

"Clearly it is difficult now, but not impossible. We have to win our next game in Debrecen and wait to see what the result is between Fiorentina and Lyon.

"We have to keep going and try to win. We have achieved miracles before and we can do it again."

On his own feelings and the pressure he is under, Benitez said: "It is simple for me to keep my head high, and that is by watching the players on the pitch and see their performances. Hearing the fans singing after the game because they know that we are improving and getting better.

"But football is like this, sometimes you have to have some luck and we did not have any luck at the end of the match.

"We were not caught out by them at the end, we were not caught on the break and had plenty of players in the box to defend.

"We just made a mistake, but not because we were thinking about attacking and caught out.

"I have not seen the replay so I do not know whether (Michel) Bastos was offside in the build-up to their equaliser. We just had to do better, we had too many players around the scorer and should have stopped him.

"It is something we have to improve on because it has happened before. When we are winning we have to close the game out and stop teams scoring against us at the end of matches, like Lyon have done in both games against us.

"We have to learn to keep the ball at times and be stronger in the challenge."

He added: "Torres was playing with pain, and that is not easy. He was inconsistent, he had to keep stopping and starting again because of the problem.

"He was playing with pain, hopefully he will now have some time for us to work with him and we will see how he progresses.

"The players must not give up hope, Lyon can win away to Fiorentina. We need to win against Debrecen and not talk too much about the other game.

"We must do our job properly first, then we will look at the other result. We will see what happens and hope to take it to the last game when we are at home to Fiorentina."

Puel hails Lyon courage

Sky Sports

Lyon boss Claude Puel was understandably delighted to have stolen a point off Liverpool on Wednesday.

The Ligue 1 giants appeared to be heading towards their first UEFA Champions League defeat of the season when Ryan Babel hammered home for the Reds on 83 minutes.

That effort looked set to keep Liverpool's ambition of reaching the knockout stages alive, while delaying Lyon's attempts to reach the last 16.

However, there was to be dramatic late drama at Stade Gerland as Lisandro Lopez hauled the tie level with a last-gasp equaliser.

A point was enough to see Lyon book their safe passage out of Group E, while leaving Liverpool hoping for a miracle.

Puel admitted afterwards that his side have made a habit out of making life difficult for themselves, but he was pleased to have taken something from an entertaining contest.

"We have mastered the art of writing particular screenplays throughout the season," said the former Monaco and Lille coach.

"We were very courageous until the end in order to equalise and to qualify this evening."

Lyon late show leaves Reds reeling


Lisandro Lopez's late equaliser denied Liverpool a crucial victory as Lyon secured Champions League progression with a 1-1 draw in France.

The much-maligned Ryan Babel had scored a wonderful goal with just seven minutes left and if Liverpool could have hung on to that lead they would still have had a realistic chance of reaching the last 16.

But Liverpool's season has been littered with shattering luck and bitter body blows, as well as beach-ball goals.

And when Lisandro struck an equaliser in the final seconds for Lyon - sending them into the last 16 - Liverpool knew their own hopes were left hanging by a thread.

Fiorentina's expected win over Debrecen keeps them firmly in second spot and Liverpool will need more than a miracle now after this devastating blow.

Daniel Agger passed a late fitness test on his back injury to play in this crunch Group E clash in the Stade Gerland, boosting the Anfield club's side who were eventually missing seven senior players as they battled for their European lives.

Fernando Torres was also in the starting line-up, while Alberto Aquilani was on the bench, Andriy Voronin partnering Torres up front.

Lyon made two changes from their side that won at Anfield a fortnight ago. Michel Bastos and Bafetimbi Gomis came in for Ederson and Sidney Govou, who were both in the bench.

At first Torres looked barely able to run, certainly with nothing like his usual mobility.

The occasional sprint when needed was about his limit early on such is the severity of the serious groin injury he is carrying.

Lyon may have been lulled into a false sense of security against the Spanish ace, and when he found a yard of space in the box he almost had Liverpool ahead after 12 just minutes.

Emiliano Insua swung over a cross from the left, and the striker met it first -time eight yards to force a fine point-blank save from Hugo Lloris, who was to deny Liverpool twice more before the break.

Liverpool defended deep and in numbers, desperate not to concede early while Lyon had plenty of possession. They moved the ball around crisply and Bastos tested Jose Reina from 20 yards while the giant Gomis had Liverpool's keeper stretching again with a 25-yarder.

But Liverpool were searching for a breakthrough of their own, and another Insua cross gave Dirk Kuyt the chance of a clever lob, again Lloris needing to be at his best to touch the ball over the bar.

The French side then lost Anthony Reveillere and Miralem Pjanic to leg injuries with Lamine Gassama and Ederson taking their places.

Liverpool's third decent chance of the half came after a foul on Torres deep in his own half.

Javier Mascherano's quick free-kick cleared Lyon's back line and allowed Voronin a clear run at goal. His shot was low, but again Lloris was up to the task, blocking the effort with his legs.

Agger was booked after 33 minutes for blocking Gomis' run on the halfway line, with Lisandro cautioned for a foul on Kuyt a minute later.

Lyon started the second period with a quicker tempo, and Lisandro hooked over an Aly Cissokho cross. The full-back's next cross saw Bastos head over the far angle.

The match was now unbelievably tense, one mistake could ruin a creditable performance by Liverpool.

And Lyon were increasing the pressure to grab the goal that would put them into the last 16.

As Liverpool pressed forward, the gaps were appearing behind them, and Gomis looked increasingly dangerous.

Liverpool's first change came after 67 minutes when Babel replaced Voronin, Torres being left on this time.

Then Lloris made yet another stunning save, turning away Lucas' effort with his left hand with Kuyt following up with an overhead shot that was kicked off the line.

Lyon brought on Govou for Gomis, before Reina had to make his first serious save of the night, blocking Lisandro from close range.

Lisandro got away again after 78 minutes, turning Agger and then firing a curling shot just wide of the far post with Liverpool now playing with four men up front.

Torres' misplaced header gave Bastos another chance to run at Liverpool's defence, his shot being deflected for a corner.

But Liverpool broke from defence after a painful bout of head tennis to get the ball away and grabbed a sensational goal after 83 minutes.

Yossi Benayoun spun the ball out to the left for Babel, who cut inside to unleash a thunderous drive into the top corner from 30 yards, before being engulfed by his team-mates.

Three minutes from the end Torres was finally taken off, David Ngog taking over up front.

But with just seconds left, Liverpool's dream crashed. Lisandro got past Insua in the box and lifted his shot over Reina for the equaliser.

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Thor Zakariassen ©