on the excuses
By David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
The wooden John Barnes and the excitable Jonathan
Pearce are reasons why Five's football coverage is often
But last night they gave us an invaluable insight into
the psyche of an under-pressure Liverpool boss.
At half-time, with his team down to 10-men, tactical
tweaks surely necessary and an inspirational team-talk
required, what was Gerard Houllier's first priority?
Not the Stade Velodrome dressing room, as you'd expect.
Houllier headed for the Five TV gantry to watch a re-run
of the controversial penalty incident. To many people it
looked like a manager trying to get his excuses ready,
while there was still half-a-match to play.
There's no doubt the 37th minute decision changed the
The Reds claim refereeing injustice so often that when
they do have a genuine cause for complaint - like last
night - their moans lose their impact.
Gerard Houllier gave many Liverpool fans the greatest
season of their lives in 2001.
But he was helped by a referee who gave a penalty to
Roma, then changed his mind, and a referee who missed
two stunning saves - by Stephane Henchoz.
The fact is refereeing decisions generally even
themselves out over the course of a season.
Yeovil were adamant Harry Kewell dived in their FA Cup
clash - a penalty was awarded - in the opening day
Premiership clash with Chelsea, Carlo Cudicini stepped a
centimetre off his line after Michael Owen missed a
penalty - and the striker was allowed a re-take which he
Liverpool have suffered from referees' decision this
season, but no more than they have benefited.
And blaming referees is to hide from the bigger problems
not blaming Biscan
LFC Official Website
John Arne Riise says nobody at Anfield is blaming
Igor Biscan for Liverpool's UEFA Cup exit in Marseille.
Biscan was red carded after 38 minutes when he was
adjudged to have fouled Steve Marlet as the French
striker bore down on goal. Despite the offence taking
place well outside the area, the Spanish referee pointed
to the penalty spot and, as a double whammy for the
Reds, sent Biscan off.
Liverpool never recovered from being reduced to ten men
and their fate was sealed when Meitze headed home the
winning goal in the second half.
Riise admits there is a huge sense of disappointment
following their exit from the competition, but he says
the Reds must quickly pick themselves up and concentrate
on their one remaining target this season - fourth place
in the Premiership.
"I thought we were the better team at first until they
got the penalty," said Riise. "With ten men it is always
going to be hard.
"We knew we just needed one goal and that would be
enough. It was the same when they made it 2-1. We kept
fighting and fighting and kept believing we could get
through. We are very disappointed but we gave it our
"I haven't seen the penalty incident again but I thought
the referee played on as Marlet had a shot and missed
the goal. At the end of the day we could have defended
better but there is no blame on Igor. Anyone can get a
red card during a match and everyone is behind Igor. He
is not the one to blame.
"I am not going to say anything about the referee as
it's not my job. Yes we are disappointed with some of
the decisions but now we just have to try and get the
fourth place in the Premiership.
"We wanted to win this cup now we have to put all our
focus on fourth place. At the start of the season we had
different targets but now we have to finish fourth. That
would be a good achievement for us as the Champions
League is so important to this club."
Shattering defeat leaves a bitter taste
By Len Capeling - Daily Post
Can this shattering season get any more wretched for
Their fans will hope not, while the rest of us continue
This latest reversal against Marseille at the
cacophonous Stade Velodrome added a huge dose of
bitterness to the brew because of the injustice of the
struggling French side's equalising penalty. They lost
Igor Biscan in that flashpoint incident - and deservedly
so for a series of tugs at the speedy Steve Marlet's
But the first foul took place outside the area and ought
to have been punished by a free-kick.
It wasn't, and Marseille's best player, the powerful,
potent Didier Drogba - who scored at Anfield - smashed
the spot-kick past an airborne Jerzy Dudek.
Some hard-luck stories are no more than useful alibis
designed to disguise any shortcomings.
This wasn't because, until Biscan's blunder, Liverpool
were in total control, bossing mid-field and defence,
and already ahead in the tie through a true striker's
finish - hooray! - from Emile Heskey, who partnered
Michael Owen up front.
The added anguish for Liverpool is that Owen limped away
in the second half with another hamstring strain, thus
turning what was already becoming another awful day into
some-thing much worse.
On a night that ended so cruelly Liverpool were rarely
They hunted down Marseille all over the pitch and the
Liverpool fans who'd made the long journey to southern
France must have been chuffed. Heskey's goal, well-taken
and inspired by a recovery tackle from the busy Harry
Kewell, slid into the big centre-forward's stride by
Steven Gerrard, was just one of the moments to savour.
With Barthez then dripping blood from a nose injury and
Liverpool dripping confidence and no little class, a
comfortable passage to the quarter-finals of the UEFA
Cup looked rosier than a Mediterranean sunrise.
Even the sight of Marlet racing through a gap and
missing the target was a another good sign until Spanish
referee Arturo Ibanez called play back, dismissed the
horrified Biscan, and awarded a penalty.
It was the turning point, as Big Ron would say.
Marseille are not the most gifted of sides, in spite of
the menace of Drogba, and it needed a corner needlessly
given away by Hyypia for the match to finally swing away
from Liverpool as Meite headed home.
Out, sadly, with a referee and unreliable linesman both
culpable. And Biscan crushed by it all.
Lots of heart, lots of good points. But now only a
Premiership battle left to fight - and that possibly
without Michael Owen.
Houllier blasts referee
BBC Sport Online
Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier blamed the referee as
his side crashed out of the Uefa Cup with defeat to
Houllier felt the decision to send off Igor Biscan and
award the French team a second-half penalty was the
turning point of his side's defeat.
"It was a very harsh decision, and the wrong one. If he
did something wrong, he did it outside the area," he
"I don't think it would have been a penalty if it had
happened the other way and it changed the whole game."
The Reds were leading through Emile Heskey's goal when
Biscan was dismissed and Houllier felt they looked
"It came at a time when we were on top and their crowd
were beginning to turn on them," he added. "No one
seemed to appeal - I thought it was a goal kick.
"I felt the incident was three or four yards outside the
box and the referee actually played advantage. What
would he have done had they scored? It was a dubious
"If we had been dominated, I would have said, okay, but
we were in control and would have gone on to win.
"I saw something happen, but it was well outside the box
and maybe should have been just a free-kick - but a
penalty and a red card is two bad decisions.
"I have joked recently that it is not players that get
you the sack, but referees - and that referee has dealt
a bad blow for Liverpool Football Club.
"I feel sorry for the players and the fans. We did not
deserve to lose."
Ten-man Liverpool crash out
BBC Sport Online
A header from Abdoulyae Meite sent 10-man Liverpool
tumbling out of the Uefa Cup in a 3-2 aggregate defeat.
Emile Heskey's powerful finish had put the Reds ahead
after good work from Harry Kewell and Steven Gerrard.
But Didier Drogba levelled matters from the penalty spot
after Igor Biscan was given a red card for a
professional foul on Steve Marlet.
And after a heavy spell of pressure from the home side,
Meite rose highest at a corner to crash home the winner.
Reds boss Gerard Houllier had stuck with the side that
beat Wolves at the weekend, keeping Heskey up front with
Michael Owen in a 4-4-2 formation.
Drogba, scorer of Marseille's late equaliser in the
first leg at Anfield, continued for the French outfit,
who brought Marlet back into their starting line-up.
The French had to deal with an early injury to Fabien
Barthez, when a collision with Fabien Beye left him with
a nasty cut on the bridge of his nose.
But a speculative shot from Marseille's Demetrius
Ferreira was the only effort on goal until Liverpool
took the lead out of nothing on 15 minutes.
Kewell stole the ball from Laurent Batlles in midfield,
allowing Gerrard to find Heskey in acres of space - and
he had time to take a touch before beating Barthez with
a powerful low drive.
Danny Murphy almost made it 2-0 on 24 minutes when his
chip curled just over the bar from the edge of the area
with Barthez well beaten.
The Reds were putting together some slick passing moves,
while in contrast, Marseille were struggling to find any
But that all changed on 38 minutes when a speculative
long-range shot from Dietmar Hamann was charged down and
the ball broke through to Marlet at the other end.
Igor Biscan tried to haul back the striker outside the
box, but after Marlet shot wide the referee brought back
play and pointed to the spot - then showed the red card
Drogba stepped up and coolly fired his spot-kick into
the roof of the net to bring the tie level again.
And the home side came out with all guns blazing after
the restart - only a timely challenge from John Arne
Riise stopping Drogba with the goal gaping.
A goal looked inevitable, and it arrived when Meite rose
above Gerrard from a corner to send an unstoppable
header past Jerzy Dudek and put Marseille ahead for the
first time in the tie.
Things got worse for Liverpool soon afterwards when Owen
was forced off with a hamstring problem, to be replaced
by Milan Baros.
Houllier's side pressed forward in search of a way back
into the game, but they lacked inspiration.
Substitute Bruno Cheyrou fired just over from the edge
of the area, but that was the closest they came to
forcing an equaliser.