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
"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
"All we can do is play with desire and passion and try to be
"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."
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
“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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
Ryan Babel had fired Liverpool ahead with just seven minutes
to go, but they still left with a 1-1 draw despite a vastly
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,"
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
"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
"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."
hails Lyon courage
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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.