After The Match 


Benfica-Liverpool 1-0 (0-0)            21.02.06                       CL
Goals: Luisao (84)
Team: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Garcia, Alonso, Sissoko, Kewell, Fowler, Morientes
Subs: Hamann (Sissoko 35), Cisse (Fowler 65),
Gerrard (Morientes 78),
Not used: Dudek, Crouch, Traore, Warnock
Yellow: Garcia, Hamann                Luis
Red: None
Referee: Konrad Plautz (Austria).
Attendance: 65,000
Shots on target: 3-0
Shots off target: 4-6
Possession: 49,5-50,5
Fouls conceded: 17-18
Corners: 7-3
Offsides: 0-1
Yellow: 1-2


HEADLINES "...I have confidence that we can play much better at Anfield."
Rafael Benitez

2202: We need spirit of Istanbul
2202: Reds missed midfield magic
2102: Rafa promises improvement
2102: Reds slip to late defeat


We need spirit of Istanbul

By Chris Bascombe - Liverpool Echo

Sami Hyypia urged Liverpool to summon the spirit of Istanbul to keep their hands on the European Cup.

A disappointing night in Lisbon was made worse by a serious eye injury suffered by midfielder Momo Sissoko.

But centre-half Hyypia is sure the tie can be transformed at Anfield.

"We're wondering how we lost the goal," said Hyypia..

"We watched the video of the set-pieces and knew what they would do, but we were sleeping.

"It's a painful way to lose the game but it's not over yet. Now we know what we have to do at Anfield.

"We can take inspiration from what we did last season. It's a similar situation to Olympiakos when we had to win by two goals.

"Every game is different but now we have to win by more goals. Even it had finished 0-0, we know we'd still have to beat them at Anfield.

"We can score two goals and stop them scoring. It's not impossible, even though it's very disappointing. It's a two-legged tie and we are only halfway through.

"We're not happy about the result and we have to play better in the second leg.

"It will be a special atmosphere in the stadium. I'm sure it will be full and I hope we can give our supporters something back.

"An away goal would have been important but we have to think we can beat them 2-0. We can get at them at Anfield. We have to put them under more pressure than we did last night."

Reds missed midfield magic

By Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo

I am still shaking my head in disbelief at Liverpool's defeat
in Portugal.

How can you dominate an away European game and fail to create any worthwhile chances?

I thought the Reds looked comfortable throughout against one of the worst Benfica sides I have ever seen, but it seemed complacency cost them.

A draw would have been a good result, but the Portuguese were there for the taking - and I could not understand why changes were made.

Last night we had a midfield line-up of Luis Garcia, Momo Sissoko, Xabi Alonso and Harry Kewell. They failed to provide the thrust to get at a home team who began very nervously and looked to be happy trying to play a containing game.

But we provided little service to our attackers and, apart from one early error from the keeper, we didn't threaten a goal.

Contrast that to last Saturday when an excellent midfield show had included Didi Hamann and Steven Gerrard in the fine win over Manchester United.

Gerrard may have been injured but, if so, what was he doing on the bench?

The skipper appeared late on, but why were he and Hamann not playing from the start, causing the sort of problems they had done against United?

They are star play-ers the team cannot do without in that sort of game.

My former boss Bill Shankly always believed you should play your best team, while Bob Paisley used to say "Don't mend something that isn't broken."

The tie is set up for another of those Anfield nights, but the outcome should not be in doubt. We just didn't do enough against opposition who were lacking confidence.

The wide men, Garcia and Kewell, failed to make any impression in the wide areas.

You cannot give the ball away as often as Garcia did, while I am still not convinced that Kewell is anywhere near his best. He was facing Alicedes, who looked awful most of the time, yet the midfielder hardly ever showed him a clean pair of heels.

We were commanding, creative and controlled everything against United, but we were only a shadow of that last night with the missing duo.

We have a problem scoring goals, but Robbie Fowler, who still looks short of match fitness, and Nando Morientes were not given a chance, such was the lack of penetration.

Fowler is a goal poacher and thrives on chances in the six yard box, but he had little opportunity to prove a threat.

A draw would have been satisfactory, but the game was there to be won. Rafa Benitez has produced a team who can defend their crown, but he must pick his strongest side. That message is clear.

We fell to a sucker punch in another set piece when our defence was caught off guard. But, generally, they have been great all season. It's further up the field that we have worries.

After the sort of game we witnessed last night at least the keepers didn't need to wash their kit!

* THE FA Cup draw offers us a good chance of progress.

Birmingham present a hurdle we should overcome, but we can't be complacent.

Lack of goals - against Birmingham twice and United away - is costing us when, really, we should be sweeping most teams away.

Winning the European Cup was a big thing last season. Now we should be looking to add more silverware to the trophy cabinet this season.

Rafa promises improvement

Football 365

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez promised a better display in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 clash with Benfica when the sides face each other again at Anfield in a fortnight.

And he also defended the decision not to risk captain Steven Gerrard, who was suffering from a minor leg injury.

Gerrard only came on for the final 12 minutes but Benfica scored with six minutes to go, leaving Liverpool with a massive task to stay in the competition.

"I would rather have Steven available for the next month rather than just 80 minutes of this match," said Benitez, who may have another injury worry after midfielder Mohamed Sissoko needed hospital treatment after suffering blurred vision following a kick to the head he received in the first half.

Sissoko was carried off and Liverpool's medical staff were still assessing the injury after the match.

The Liverpool boss also cast doubt over the free-kick which saw Benfica score their winner through defender Anderson Luisao.

"We have seen the video and I do not think it was a free-kick," Benitez added.

"It was disappointing to concede a free-kick in that position so late in the game. We had discussed how dangerous they were from that particular set-piece and we ended up letting them score from it.

"But I have confidence that we can play much better at Anfield. We need to score one quickly and with our fans behind us I believe we can go on to win the game and the tie."

Benitez added: "I was happy with the effort of my players but maybe we could have attacked more.

"But it is hard for us after the amount of games we have played this season to perform at a high tempo all the time."

In contrast, Benfica boss Ronald Koeman was satisfied with his side's performance.

"It was not a fantastic game but it was a fantastic occasion for Benfica," he said.

"We did not start well but we attacked more in the second half and created more.

"We needed only one goal and we deserved what we got. Liverpool defended very well and it was not easy to create anything.

"The midfield players had a lot of problems creating chances against such good defence.

"They will attack more at Anfield but their way of play is always similar. In the second leg Steven Gerrard will play from the start.

"But we know that if we score one, they must score three. We are more favourites now, Liverpool were but we are now favourites.

"It was their first defeat in the Champions League proper [this season] and Liverpool have played Chelsea twice and not lost.

"But we have now beaten them as well as Manchester United, it shows we are also a good side."

Reds slip to late defeat

By James Pearson - Sky Sports

Liverpool fell for the sucker punch in Portugal as Benfica bagged a 1-0 first leg lead in the UEFA Champions League thanks to Luisao's late header.

The contest was even through-out with neither side in truth looking like forging ahead until the Brazilian defender got his head on Petit's free-kick.

The Reds had been water-tight in Europe with Real Betis the last side to breach their defence, but they find themselves making up a deficit for the return leg at Anfield.

The match began in heated fashion with Luis Garcia lucky to escape with just a yellow card from referee Konrad Plautz for clattering Leo after just 20 seconds.

Chances were few and far between in the opening half, although Sami Hyypia was close to connecting with Robbie Fowler's flick from Xabi Alonso's free-kick.

The visitors continued to look the more likely to open the scoring and keeper Marcelo Moretto was lucky Fowler failed to redirect the ball after it spilled from his grasp.

Benfica then created their best opening of the half, but after Simao Sabrosa was superbly played in, Jose Reina was quick off his line to dispossess the forward.

Rafa Benitez was forced into a change when Dietmar Hamann was called into action after Mohammed Sissoko went off with a head injury from Beto's high boot.

Neither keeper was troubled before half-time with John Arne Riise's long shot well wide of goal while Simao's free-kick was also high, wide and handsome.

The game continued to disappoint after the break with little action in either penalty area.

The first shot on target arrived shortly after the hour mark when Petit tried his luck from distance only for Reina to prevent the ball nestling in the top corner.

Benitez attempted to shake things up in attack bringing on Djibril Cisse for Fowler, but the switch failed to spark attacking impetus.

Riise's long throw-in from the left gave Fernando Morientes a chance in the air, although his header floated over Moretto's crossbar.

With the game entering the closing stages the visitors were stunned when Luisao out-muscled Hyypia to nod home past the stranded Reina from close-range.

Petit came close to doubling the advantage, but his chipped shot was tame and easily gathered by Reina.

Liverpool pushed forward in search of an equaliser although they rarely threatened Moretto's goal and now have it all to do in two weeks' time.

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Thor Zakariassen