After The Match 


Liverpool-Atletico Madrid 2-1aet (1-0)     29.4.10                 EL
Goals: Aquilani (44), Benayoun (95)       Forlan (102)
Team: Reina, Mascherano, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Lucas, Gerrard, Aquilani, Babel, Benayoun, Kuyt
Subs: El Zahr (Aquilani 89), Degen (Mascherano 110),
Pacheco (Benayoun 113)
Not used: Cavalieri, Kyrgiakos, Ayala, Ngog
Yellow: Gerrard (42), Aquilani (51), Carragher (52)
Assuncao (52), Valero (67)
Red: None
Referee: Terje Hauge (NOR)
Attendance: 42,040
MATCH REPORTS                                    TABLE
Shots on target: 7-5
Shots off target: 3-6
Blocked shots: 4-4
Fouls conceded: 19-21
Corners: 8-3
Offsides: 4-2
Possession: 55.4-44.6
Yellow: 3-2

we conceded here sums up the season..."
Rafael Benitez
3004: Babel: It hurts so much
3004: Liverpool FC suffer more frustration
          as season of woe continues

3004: Benitez blames finances for Liverpool FC's Europa League loss
3004: Impotence in attack is main Anfield ailment
2904: Forlan late show sinks Reds

Babel: 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 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, it's difficult.

"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 semi-final exit.

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 May 12.

Just 17 minutes away in fact but then their old nemesis Diego Forlan, who netted in the first leg, gatecrashed the party.

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 Benayoun’s strike.

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 services.

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 Atletico defence.

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

Liverpool Echo

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 that.

“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 year.

“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 change.”

The Spaniard has previously indicated he would need around £60million this summer to acquire the players he believes Liverpool need.

However, he couldn't confirm whether those funds would be available and whether he will still be at Anfield to spend it.

“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 games.”

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 Lucas.

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 him.

Atletico manager Quique Sanchez Flores suggested the beginning of each half would be key to the outcome of the game.

“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 ammunition however.

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 12.

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 threat though.

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

Sky Sports

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 the former.

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 Mascherano's cross.

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 offside.

Gerrard was booked for a needless foul on Aguero as the half drew to a close and frustration levels began to rise at Anfield.

But a minute before the interval the breakthrough finally came with the simplest of moves and the most exact of finishes.

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 left-hand post.

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 trap.

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 extinguished.

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