It hurts so much
By Jimmy Rice - LFC Official Website
Ryan Babel admits no one spoke in the
Liverpool dressing room following a heartbreaking Euro exit
at Anfield on Thursday.
The Reds missed out on facing Fulham in the Europa League
final after Diego Forlan gave Atletico Madrid the away goal
they needed to progress in extra-time.
Babel told Liverpoolfc.tv down the tunnel: "It hurts a lot
because we controlled the game, more or less. We made one
mistake and they scored.
"It's frustrating when you know you are so close to a trophy
and in the end it's gone. It's very disappointing.
"Obviously everyone was quiet and disappointed in the
dressing room - nobody said a word. We all need to go home
and then we'll discuss things on Friday."
Babel concedes that he and his teammates had nothing left to
give in extra-time following a high-tempo performance during
the 90 minutes.
However, he is confident Liverpool can pick themselves up in
time for Sunday's home clash with Chelsea.
"It was difficult mentally for us to get that third goal,"
said Babel. "Definitely at the end of the season, when you
have to play that extra 30 minutes against a good opponent,
"But I don't think it's difficult to pick ourselves up now
because it's Chelsea and you always want to do well against
the top four. The whole team will be ready.
"It's difficult to say where this leaves our season but the
focus should be on winning our two games and hoping our
rivals for fourth place drop some points.
"You should always try to believe and think positive. If you
think negative, you don't get anything."
Liverpool FC suffer more frustration
as season of woe continues
Comment by James Pearce - Liverpool Echo
Try telling Steven Gerrard this was only
the consolation cup. Try telling Jamie Carragher the Europa
League isn’t worth winning.
As Liverpool’s players lay prostrate on the Anfield turf
after 120 energy-sapping minutes last night they had to come
to terms with the gut-wrenching agony of a European
The competition that was supposed to offer salvation of
sorts at the end of a desperate campaign ultimately only
provided yet another crushing disappointment.
The Europa League may be the poor relation but it still
matters and this hurt. The fact is the likes of Fernando
Torres, Javier Mascherano, Dirk Kuyt, Yossi Benayoun and
Lucas still have no medals to show for their tireless
efforts in red.
Among the current crop only Gerrard, Carragher and Pepe
Reina have won silverware with the club. The old adage is
that Liverpool only exists to win trophies but one hasn’t
been placed on the Anfield sideboard now since 2006.
What’s clear is that the barren spell isn’t likely to be
ended until there is some serious investment in a squad
which clearly lacks depth.
Afterwards a crestfallen Rafa Benitez admitted a major
rebuilding job is needed at Anfield this summer but whether
the Spaniard will be around to oversee it is unclear.
Benitez wants to take Liverpool forward but it’s hard to see
how that will happen until uncertainty over the ownership of
the club is ended.
Of course Europa League glory wouldn’t have made up for a
domestic campaign of miserable underachievement. In truth it
would barely have papered over the cracks.
But this was the chance to salvage something and ensure that
in years to come the overriding memory of 2009/10 would be
winning a trophy rather than the miserable statistic of 18
defeats in all competitions.
When Yossi Benayoun slammed home his side’s second goal in
extra time that hope was very much alive. Liverpool were on
the verge of an all-English final with Fulham in Hamburg on
Just 17 minutes away in fact but then their old nemesis
Diego Forlan, who netted in the first leg, gatecrashed the
On a night of high drama it was the Uruguayan who provided
the late twist in the tale.
Forlan famously scored twice at Anfield to clinch victory
for Manchester United eight years ago and last night he
returned to haunt the Reds once again.
The goal sucked any remaining energy from Liverpool’s legs
and there was no grandstand finish as Benitez’s men bowed
out on away goals.
On the three previous occasions Liverpool had gone into a
European second leg at Anfield with a one goal deficit to
make up they had gone through and for a long time last night
it looked like history was about to repeat itself.
Just as Lille and Benfica found it tough attempting to hold
on to a narrow lead in the earlier rounds, so Atletico had
their backs pinned firmly against the wall. Nobody could
accuse Benitez of lacking attacking intent as he deployed
Alberto Aquilani just behind Kuyt.
Caution was thrown to the wind and with Benayoun and Ryan
Babel rampaging down the wings and Gerrard bursting through
from a central position alongside Lucas, the Reds threatened
to run riot.
Goalkeeper David de Gea had more to do in the opening 10
seconds than he did in 90 minutes in the Vicente Calderon.
There was pace and urgency in equal measure but
frustratingly no early breakthrough as De Gea kept out
Asked to play right-back in order to nullify the threat of
Simao, Javier Mascherano excelled.
Carragher and Agger were rock solid and when called into
action Reina rose to the challenge to force Raul Garcia’s
shot around the post.
Anxiety levels were on the rise when Aquilani repaid a hefty
chunk of the £20million Liverpool splashed out for his
Last night was only his 11th start but on the stroke of
half-time heprovided a moment of true class when he swept
home Benayoun’s cross.
Having restored parity Liverpool eased off and the second
half developed into a war of attrition with chances at a
premium. Five minutes into extra time Anfield erupted
courtesy of Benayoun’s sweet finish after Lucas unlocked the
But the joy was shortlived as a defensive lapse was
ruthlessly punished by Forlan. There was nothing left in the
Liverpool tank and Atletico simply saw out time to book
their first European final since 1986.
The night merely summed up a season Kopites will be glad to
see the back of. A few highlights but weaknesses exposed in
a heart-breaking finale.
Benitez blames finances for
Liverpool FC's Europa League loss
Rafa Benitez admitted a major rebuilding
job is needed at Anfield this summer after Liverpool crashed
out of the Europa League at the hands of Atletico Madrid.
The Reds bowed out on away goals after the semi-final with
the Spaniards ended 2-2 on aggregate.
It ended the Reds' hopes of silverware this season and they
must win their remaining two Premier League games to have
any chance of qualifying for the Champions League.
Benitez believes big changes are needed to ensure this
season is only a one-off.
“Two or three of the players have said we need three, four
or five more players and I agree with them,” Benitez said.
“The goal we conceded here sums up the season, you could say
“It has been one of those seasons where everything has gone
against us, though the players could be very proud tonight
because they were working so hard.
“But this season has not been good enough. Every team can
have a bad season, but now we just have to finish it in the
right way over the next two games and then prepare for next
“I do not think that going out tonight will change whether
we can attract players.
“This is a massive club, we will try to do our best and the
name of the club will still be here, and that will not
The Spaniard has previously indicated he would need around
£60million this summer to acquire the players he believes
However, he couldn't confirm whether those funds would be
available and whether he will still be at Anfield to spend
“Things have changed in the past,” he said. “We had to be a
company, to balance the books and to manage in this way. I
do not know what will happen in the summer.
“The future for me is Chelsea. And after that? Hull.”
Juventus are said to be keen on the Spaniard, who saw his
hopes of leading Liverpool to a third European final under
his charge collapse after they had found themselves in such
a promising position.
The exit was a microcosm of Liverpool’s season.
“Everything seems to have been against the players this
season,” aded Benitez.
“It is clear that we had some problems. We had too many
injuries and were lacking forward options. But the players
worked so hard tonight and I am very proud of them.
“Now we have to concentrate and do our best in the next two
Impotence in attack
is main Anfield ailment
Comment by David Randles - Liverpool Daily Post
When Liverpool announced Ian Rush was returning to the
club this week you half expected a photo-call at Melwood
complete with Rafa Benitez and the obligatory scarf.
With the hosts needing at least two goals to overturn
Atletico Madrid, injuries to Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt and
David Ngog didn’t bode well for those who had already
snapped up a hotel room in Hamburg.
Rush was at Anfield last night to see Liverpool’s last
chance of silverware this season dwindle.
Perhaps he should have brought his boots.
While Ngog remained on the bench throughout, Kuyt carried
the torch up front.
It was the inclusion of Alberto Aquilani that really shook
things up though.
Rafael Benitez had issued a rallying call to Steven Gerrard
beforehand, instructing his captain to lead by example as he
had at Turf Moor four days earlier.
But by including Aquilani, Gerrard’s attacking instincts
were compromised as he was forced to sit deeper alongside
The lack of strikers saw 4-2-3-1 as the most realistic
option. With Gerrard told to hold, it was Aquilani who
slotted in behind Kuyt.
It was a gamble that initially paid off.
In what was only the second time he’d been entrusted to
start in successive games since his summer arrival from
Roma, the £20million man would repay his manager’s faith in
Atletico manager Quique Sanchez Flores suggested the
beginning of each half would be key to the outcome of the
“With the players we have it is all about how we start each
half,” he said.
“If Liverpool start strongly the crowd will respond.”
While that was true, with all corners of Anfield answering
another of Benitez’s call to arms, it was the end of the
first half that initially altered the dynamic of the tie.
With just a minute to go before the break, Aquilani picked
the perfect time to score his second goal for Liverpool.
On a personal note it was a rare highlight for the Italian
in what has been a nightmare first season for him.
The bigger picture highlighted Liverpool’s dire lack of
With just 12 goals between them, Kuyt and Aquilani’s return
was piecemeal compared to the 44 mustered between Atletico’s
prolific duo of Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero.
It was a nap that one of them would provide the killer blow.
By the time Yossi Benayoun put Liverpool ahead for the first
time in the tie, the fatigued Aquilani had been replaced by
Nabil El Zhar.
With just a handful of games this season, let alone goals,
the Moroccan was unlikely to provide Liverpool’s salvation.
Glance at the bench and the glaring dearth of striking
options again shone through.
Dani Pacheco’s late introduction while Ngog stayed put
suggested the Frenchman was never fit enough to play, posing
the question of why he was there in the first place.
Whether he would have made a difference is hypothetical now.
The bottom line is Liverpool didn’t create enough to book
their place in an all English final against Fulham on May
Of the chances they did create, too few were taken.
It was telling that, aside from Aquilani’s leveller, the
best chance of the first half came from a defender; Daniel
Agger’s headed ‘goal’ being correctly ruled out for offside.
Likewise, Glen Johnson provided Liverpool’s best hope in the
second half when he forced David de Gea to tip over the bar.
Credit must be paid to Atletico for stifling Liverpool’s
In truth , a large part of the job was completed when Torres
tore his cartilage against Benfica at Anfield.
The four goals Liverpool scored in that game were just one
less than they managed in the Champions League group stage;
that being the very reason they found themselves playing in
Europe’s secondary competition.
Benitez admitted afterwards he needs three to five players.
Forwards should be a priority within his thinking.
Forlan late show sinks Reds
Atletico Madrid ended Liverpool's hopes of
Europa League glory with an away goals success after
extra-time at Anfield.
Diego Forlan, the goalscorer of Atletico's first-leg lead,
came back to haunt the Reds in and will now face Fulham in
the Hamburg final.
Liverpool, who saw the tie enter an additional 30 minutes
after Alberto Aquilani's 44th minute strike, thought they
were on their way to an all-English showpiece against the
Cottagers when Yossi Benayoun grabbed a 95th minute lead.
Forlan, the former Manchester United man who was much
derided during his time in English football, had the last
word however, as he struck in the 102nd minute to put an end
to the Merseyside team's involvement in the competition.
Liverpool had needed an early boost and they almost got it
after just nine seconds.
Daniel Agger's long ball picked out Benayoun in the penalty
area and his low shot from a narrow angle was turned behind
by goalkeeper David de Gea, who had an easier save when
Aquilani shot straight at him in the 11th minute.
It was a sign of things to come as Atletico's game-plan of
sitting back and counter-attacking was restricted to just
But the Spanish side, driven by the knowledge an away goal
would strengthen their position considerably, still posed an
occasional threat and Jose Reina dived low to his right to
turn Raul Garcia's long-range effort around the post midway
through the half.
Still Liverpool pushed forward and Dirk Kuyt, who recovered
from a calf injury to lead the line, was only inches over as
he slid into the six-yard area to deflect Javier
The game was becoming more open but when Sergio Aguero went
round Reina from Jose Antonio Reyes' perfect through-ball he
opted to cross rather than shoot from a narrow angle and
Forlan could not make up the ground.
Liverpool thought they had scored the goal they desperately
wanted when Steven Gerrard curled in a 32nd minute free-kick
and Agger headed into the bottom corner only to be flagged
Gerrard was booked for a needless foul on Aguero as the half
drew to a close and frustration levels began to rise at
But a minute before the interval the breakthrough finally
came with the simplest of moves and the most exact of
Stand-in right-back Mascherano's throw down the wing was
picked up by Benayoun, whose cross was missed by Kuyt but
found Aquilani who curled a low shot just inside De Gea's
With honours even Liverpool's approach play was more patient
and measured as the second half began.
But the optimism around Anfield which was tangible before
the break had been replaced by a growing sense of anxiety
and the players could feel it, with Benayoun shooting well
over from 25 yards.
Urged on by the Kop, Liverpool found an extra gear and when
Glen Johnson cut in and whipped in a right-footed shot De
Gea could only parry it over the crossbar, but the
goalkeeper was able to claim Gerrard's corner unchallenged.
The last 10 minutes saw Atletico have probably their best
spell of the game but Forlan crucially mis-controlled the
last chance of regulation time having sprung the offside
Five minutes into the added period Liverpool went ahead for
the first time.
A Gerrard free-kick was only half-cleared and Lucas lobbed
the ball over the inside-left channel where Benayoun, played
onside by Antonio Lopez, drilled home left-footed with De
Gea getting a hand to the shot but failing to keep it out.
Substitute Jose Manuel Jurado's 20-yard effort inches wide
of the post was a warning Liverpool failed to heed as in the
102nd minute Atletico scored the vital away goal when Reyes
beat Johnson to cross for the unmarked Forlan to stab home.
The second period was notable only for Simao Sabrosa firing
just over as Liverpool's European dreams - and their hopes
of a successful conclusion to their drab season - were