After The Match 


Standard Liege-Liverpool 0-0       13.8.08     CL qualifier, 1. leg
Team: Reina, Arbeloa, Dossena, Carragher, Agger, Alonso, Plessis, Benayoun, Kuyt, Keane, Torres
Subs: Gerrard (Keane 67), El Zhar (Kuyt 82)
Not used: Cavalieri, Hyypia, Insua, Pennant, Voronin
Yellow: Alonso (26)                Marcos (30), Mikulic (89)
Red: None
Referee: Tom Henning Ovrebo (Nor)
Attendance: 25.000
Shots on target: 2-1
Shots off target: 3-4
Blocked shots: 2-3
Fouls conceded: 20-11
Corners: 2-4
Offsides: 4-1
Possession: 32.4-67.6
Yellow: 2-1
HEADLINES " was difficult for
us to keep
the ball."
Rafael Benitez

1408: Kuyt: Big improvement needed
1408: Carragher: Tie is not over
1408: Woeful stalemate showed
          why Rafa must buy Barry

1408: Reina rescues side
          from sub-standard display

1408: Reina: We need to improve
1308: Rafa: We were lucky
1308: Liverpool fail to ignite in Belgium

Kuyt: Big improvement needed

By Paul Walker - PA Sport

Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt spoke for an embarrassed Liverpool squad by vowing that they will not play as badly again in Europe.

Liverpool retreated from their Champions League mauling in Belgium, as close to their Waterloo in European competition as they would want to get.

And Kuyt promised: "We will not play as badly as that again, we must improve and we will improve."

Around £12million of UEFA prize money is now riding on the second leg of their third qualifying round against Standard Liege on August 27.

Failure to reach the group stages then would even leave a question mark over the future of boss Rafael Benitez, who could probably hear American knives sharpening as he witnessed Liverpool's inept 0-0 draw against Belgian champions Standard Liege on Wednesday night.

Only Jose Reina's penalty save and his all-round defiance prevented the three or four-goal victory Liege deserved.

Kuyt, along with out-of-touch Robbie Keane, was taken off in the second half at the reverberating Maurice Dufrasne stadium, home of a club who had not won their domestic title in 25 years.

And the Belgians made it clear they wanted to grab with both hands the chance of a first-ever Champions League adventure.

Kuyt said: "It was a bad performance. We tried to do our best and it was not good enough.

"The forwards just did not have enough of the ball, and our man of the match was Pepe Reina, that says everything about us.

"We will need a big improvement at Anfield. We know we did not play our best game against Liege, we know that as a team."

A small, mainly silent Liverpool following high in the rafters of Liege's intimidating stadium watched in horror as the five-times European champions were battered from start to finish.

Kuyt said: "We struggled. We could not pass the ball to our team-mates anywhere near enough.

"It was a difficult night and difficult to know what really went wrong. But the good thing was a clean sheet and that will give us the edge in a fortnight for the second leg.

"We know it was not our best game. But we want to step things up and we know there is quality in the team, we have shown that in pre-season and now we must show it in competitive matches too.

"We have some big games coming up. One of those is on Saturday at Sunderland. So we must not play like this again.

"Now we are looking forward to Saturday and the first league game at Sunderland to show who we are and what we are.

"As for the Champions League, fortunately we are still in the tie, but we definitely have to show better form than we showed in Liege. We need to score, we have to play better and we will."

Carragher: Tie is not over


Jamie Carragher admits Liverpool still have a huge task on their hands as they bid to reach the group stages of the UEFA Champions League.

The defender endured an uncomfortable night on Wednesday as Liverpool survived to earn a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their third qualifying round tie with Standard Liege.

Belgian champions Standard placed Liverpool under heavy pressure at Stade Maurice Dufrasne and Carragher is expecting another difficult evening at Anfield on August 27.

The second leg meeting on Merseyside is now a knock-out clash in the battle to secure a lucrative spot in the group stages of Europe's most prestigious club competition and Carragher is well aware of what is at stake.

"It's definitely not over," Carragher told the Liverpool Echo.

"We know it'll be another tough game next time and it's very important that we don't let them get an away goal when they come to Anfield."

Liverpool have found it tricky in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League in previous seasons and prior to winning the competition in 2005, Rafa Benitez's side lost their home leg to Austrian minnows Graz AK.

A repeat performance would see the Reds crash out, but Carragher feels the fact that qualification has eventually been secured in the past is a reason to be confident ahead of welcoming Standard to England.

"We would certainly take it if we can get through now and go on to do what we've done in the Champions League in the past," added Carragher.

"Over the years we've always seemed to find these kind of games difficult but gone on to do well and hopefully this time it will be the same.

"It's never a bad result in Europe to come away and get a clean sheet and now we've done that we have to go on and do the business at Anfield."

Tommy Smith:
Woeful stalemate showed
why Rafa must buy Barry

By Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo

Apart from Pepe Reina saving Liverpool’s blushes in Belgium last night, two things in particular struck me.

First was the importance of Steven Gerrard to Liverpool Football Club. And second was just why Rafa Benitez has been right all along to try and bring Gareth Barry to Anfield.

These are very early days and the Belgians and their fans were well up for it, of course. But it was a really poor performance with just two or three players along with Reina doing themselves any justice.

It was only when Gerrard came on halfway through the second half that you sensed Liverpool were going to survive. He calmed things down, made everyone play with a bit more assurance – something which had been woefully lacking until then – and added a bit more threat going forward.

Personally I would have much preferred to have seen him on from the start. I know he has had a couple of injuries recently but he was passed fit beforehand and if Stevie had been on from the beginning it might never have been as tricky as it turned out.

He is such an important player for Liverpool that when he is missing it is hard to cover for him. He and Mascherano were the ideal men to have in midfield for a game like that last night, and both were missed, with the Argentinian out at the Beijing Olympics.

Xabi Alonso tried to get on the ball and influence play at times but for me I’m afraid he is not the player right now that he used to be. He struggled last season, for all his undoubted ability on the ball when he has time, and with youngster Damien Plessis still settling into the first team, we never did get a proper grip in midfield last night.

Barry is strong in the tackle, good with possession, energetic and experienced. The owners may have questioned his value but if Liverpool had lost by a goal or two last night – which they could so easily have done – then they might have found themselves out of the Champions League before they were in it.

And that would have proved far more costly and embarrassing as we know, given the millions of pounds that come with success in Europe.

I know the move for Barry looks dead in the water but I for one hope it might yet be revived because it’s clear to me – and I’m sure an increasing number of supporters – that Liverpool really would benefit from having him.

But let’s end on a positive note with some well deserved praise for Reina, so often an unsung hero like my old mate Ray Clemence.

For three years running now he has won the Golden Gloves Award for keeping the most clean sheets in the Premier League and last night he was unquestionably the Reds’ man of the match.

His penalty save was crucial and while the tie is far from over, if Liverpool can impose themselves in a fortnight and get the victory we need, then we may well have the talented Spaniard to thank for getting us through.

Reina rescues side
from sub-standard display

By Ian Doyle - Liverpool Daily Post

Liverpool were greeted with a torrent of toilet roll in Liege last night. That, though, was no excuse for the bog standard display that followed.

Only the heroics of Pepe Reina prevented Rafael Benitez from starting a defining season of his Anfield tenure in abysmal fashion.

Maybe it was the return of the much-unloved green away shirts that contributed to such a disappointing display in this first leg of their Champions League third qualifying round tie against Standard Liege.

But an abject Liverpool were grateful to return to Merseyside with a goalless draw, thanks largely to Reina saving an 11th-minute penalty from Standard’s Brazilian full-back Dante having earlier produced an even better, if somewhat contentious, stop to deny Marouane Fellaini.

That it took the visitors until injury time to force their first shot on target tells the story for Benitez’s alarmingly out-of-sorts side, who failed to score for only the second time in 12 European away games.

Standard had presented every home supporter with a complimentary toilet roll before the game in an attempt to add spectacle to the atmosphere.

And for the Anfield return in a fortnight, Liverpool would be well advised to follow suit given the nervy evening their fans can anticipate if the team replicate this form. Of course, progress to the group stages has rarely been without a fright under Benitez.

But with qualification worth an estimated £12 million and relations with the club’s American owners being strained by the interminable Gareth Barry transfer saga, now is not the time for Benitez’s famed Midas touch in the Champions League to desert him.

It certainly wasn’t an evening to remember for Liverpool’s debutants. Andrea Dossena was responsible for conceding the harsh penalty while £19m striker Robbie Keane endured a frustrating evening before being substituted midway through the second half.

Benitez believes that Keane and Fernando Torres can ultimately prove Europe’s most lethal strikeforce, but that will only happen once the pair are given far greater service than afforded to them last night.

Concerns over the less-than-ideal pre-season preparations appeared justified as Liverpool appeared well off the pace, lacking the cohesion, sharpness and aggression of the Belgian champions.

Yes, Benitez hasn’t been helped by the loss of Ryan Babel, Lucas Leiva and in particular Javier Mascherano to Olympic duty, the trio remaining in Beijing for this weekend’s quarter-finals. But Liverpool have been aware of their absence for weeks.

There were no such problems for Standard. Skipper Steven Defour declined the opportunity to represent Belgium in the Far East and highly-rated midfielder Fellaini was flown back from China especially for last night’s game.

No wonder. It has been more than 25 years since Standard hosted a fixture of such gravitas, and banners laid out before the game signalling “Hell-Side”, “Publik Hysterik” and “Ultras-Inferno” made Liverpool aware they were in for a hostile reception, even if the last lost some of its impact by being draped upside down.

Benitez’s pursuit of Barry will most likely take a decisive turn this evening should the Aston Villa midfielder be cup-tied in Europe until next year by appearing in his team’s UEFA Cup tie in Iceland.

But the Liverpool manager effectively settled the issue of Xabi Alonso’s immediate future by including the Spaniard in his starting line-up, at a stroke making him far less appealing to prospective buyers in the current transfer window.

Liverpool had negotiated five previous Champions League qualifying rounds and won nine of 11 previous games against Belgian opposition, including victory in both legs against Standard in the European Cup Winners Cup in 1965.

Despite training at the stadium the previous evening, Steven Gerrard was deemed only fit enough for bench duty, with Liverpool keeping the same team that started the friendly victory over Lazio last Friday. It meant a European bow for Damien Plessis alongside Alonso in central midfield, and the young Frenchman justified his manager’s faith with an encouraging, mature performance; a rare positive for Benitez.

Liverpool may have been unbeaten throughout pre-season but they began their campaign proper in dreadful fashion. Buoyed by the impressive backing of their home support on the steep banks of the stadium known locally as “The Cauldron”, Standard raced out of the blocks and Liverpool were reliant on some brilliant goalkeeping by Reina to prevent an early calamity.

The game was only seven minutes old when a simple free-kick once again caused panic in the Liverpool defence.

Fellaini met Dante’s delivery, the ball hit the Standard midfielder on the shoulder and then struck the inside of the post before Reina somehow clawed away and the visitors eventually cleared to safety.

The home fans claimed a goal, but endless TV replays couldn’t conclusively prove the ball had crossed the line before the keeper’s intervention.

Five minutes later, referee Tom Henning Ovrebo awarded Standard a penalty when Wilfried Dalmat’s right-wing cross struck Dossena on the hand, despite the incident clearly occurring outside the area. It was a poor decision, but justice was done when Dante struck his spot-kick too close to penalty expert Reina. Clearly, not the peak of Dante’s career.

Liverpool’s over-worked and worryingly uncertain defence then sought to grapple some semblance of control and the remainder of the half passed with relative calm.

But going forward, Benitez’s side were largely limited to hopeful long balls up to Torres and Keane, with Alonso’s 25-yard free-kick that landed on the roof of the net their only attacking moment of note in the first half.

The second half brought more of the same. Igor De Camargo sent a free header wide from Dante’s cross in the 66th minute and later brought Reina again into action, but Standard found it difficult to maintain their hectic opening pace in the final quarter.

Having weathered a considerable storm, Liverpool will now be favourites to finish the job in a fortnight. But they will have to do an awful lot better than this.

Reina: We need to improve

By Paul Eaton - LFC Official Website

Pepe Reina accepts Liverpool must step up their game if they're to see off the challenge of Standard Liege and qualify for the group stages of this season's Champions League.

The Reds arrived back from Belgium in the early hours of this morning after a disappointing display in Liege ensured the third round tie remained firmly in the balance ahead of the Anfield return in two weeks' time.

Reina was the Reds hero on the night, making a series of fine saves including a 10th minute penalty stop from Dante after Andrea Dossena was adjudged to have handled inside the area.

The Liverpool 'keeper was also called into action to scoop the ball to safety after Feillani's header had spun back off the post towards the net.

"We played really bad and it's clear we have to improve for the game at Anfield," admitted Reina.

"The positive thing is we got a result, we kept a clean sheet and it's still in our hands. But we didn't play well.

"I don't know if the ball was over the line before I cleared it - I'll have to watch it on TV. Penalty saves are always difficult but, like I say, at least we got the result on the night. But we have to improve."

Rafa: We were lucky

By Paul Hassall at the Stade Maurice Dufrasne - LFC Official Website

Rafael Benitez admitted his side were lucky to escape with a draw after they produced a below-par display in the first-leg of the Champions League qualifier with Standard Liege.

The Reds boss was frustrated that his side could not reproduce their good pre-season form against the Belgian champions but feels the Anfield factor will play a vital role when the two sides meet at Anfield in a fortnight's time.

"I think we were lucky not to concede," said Benitez.

"You never know what is going to happen when a game gets underway but clearly we didn't play well.

"The performance was poor but the result was good. We didn't concede away from home which is always important and to play the second-leg at Anfield could make a massive difference.

"The positive thing was the result and we didn't have to say too much about the display in the dressing room because everybody already knew it wasn't good."

The Reds struggled to come to terms with Liege's fast start to the contest and Benitez felt his side were their own worst enemy and was grateful to keeper Pepe Reina for securing
a 0-0 draw with a first-half spot-kick save.

"They were very aggressive and we could not keep the ball," he said.

"Our passes were bad and we always lost the first and second ball.

"In the first 20 minutes they were on top of us and after that we controlled it a bit more.

"In the second-half they started the same way and played more long balls and continued to win the first and second balls and if you don't win them you will continue to be under pressure.

"I was a little bit surprised because we were playing well in pre-season with a lot of confidence.

"I told the players before, after watching their Super Cup game against Anderlecht, that it could be like this.

"We knew they could be very aggressive. They were organised and pressed well and it was difficult for us to keep the ball.

"I think the entire team didn't play well; so the strikers, midfielders and defenders didn't play well and Pepe Reina was man of the match."

With Javier Mascherano, Lucas Leiva and Ryan Babel all on Olympic duty and the likes of Fabio Aurelio and Martin Skrtel out injured, Benitez felt his side lacked options on the bench and admitted he had been forced to bring skipper Steven Gerrard into the frame to try and inspire a late rally.

"We have a lot of players away or injured and the competition for the places needs to improve," he continued.

"Gerrard couldn't start and he is a player who can change a game and if you have two or three players of this level on the pitch it is different.

"We were talking with the doctor before the match and we knew he couldn't start and we were thinking maybe we could use him and in the end we did need him.

"I have been really pleased with the commitment of the players in the pre-season but this game was different, it was difficult and we didn't play well.

"Fabio Aurelio and Skrtel have been training and when they are available we will have more options.

"Argentina play Holland in the Olympics too, so one player will return earlier. If you have more players competing for places it is better for the team."

Liverpool fail to ignite in Belgium

By Rob Carragher - Setanta Sports

Liverpool produced a disappointing 0-0 display in their Champions League third round qualifying tie, on
a night when Dante Bonfim Costa missed a penalty
for Standard Liege.

Liverpool began the game brightly, but were shaken after just six minutes as Standard struck the post with the game’s first clear-cut chance.

A free-kick from the left was met by the unmarked Marouane Fellaini, but the midfielder could only direct the ball onto the post with his shoulder, forcing Liverpool keeper Reina to scramble across his line to claw the ball away.

The Belgian champions looked buoyed by the early opportunity and should have taken the lead on ten minutes when Andrea Dossena was adjudged to have handled in the box.

A cross from Wilfried Dalmat struck Dossena’s arm from close range and despite the incident occurring just outside the penalty area, the referee pointed to the spot only for Dante Bonfim Costa to see his disappointing penalty saved by Pepe Reina.

Indeed, Standard continued to look the more dangerous of the two sides, with striker Felliani proving his dominance in the air with two headers that flashed wide of Reina’s goal.

Liverpool by contrast were making little use of their superior possession, choosing to launch long balls at every opportunity and looking far off the pace required to face such competitive opposition.

The task was to get no easier for the English outfit in the second half, as Standard came out of the traps with even greater determination.

Harried at every opportunity, the Liverpool stars were becoming sloppy in possession and Standard were enjoying a series of half-chances courtesy of the uncharacteristically poor Liverpool backline.

Igor De Camargo was the man at the heart of the Standard Liege attacks, proving an increasingly prevalent force in the game and carving out Standard’s finest chances of the second half.

On 65minutes, a long ball from deep was met just six yards from goal by the Brazilian striker, but De Camargo headed wide before seeing an almost carbon copy chance five minutes later deflected away from the goal by the onrushing Reina.

Liverpool were undoubtedly rattled by their Belgian opponents and Benitez was forced to field his injured captain with twenty minutes to go in a desperate attempt to gain some control in the game.

Gerrard’s introduction did stabilise The Reds briefly, but Standard continued to threaten much more than their opposition, albeit without the final product that they desired.

Standard dominated late into the game and though Dalmat saw a late shot flash across the Liverpool goal in injury time, the 2005 Champions League winners held on for what ultimately proved to be an unlikely away draw.

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