After The Match 


Liverpool-Sofia 0-1 (0-1)    Tue 23.08.05     (CL 3. qual.-2. leg)
Goals: Iliev (15)
Team: Carson, Finnan, Warnock, Hyypia, Josemi, Hamann, Sissoko, Potter, Riise, Cisse, Morientes
Subs: Garcia (Potter 46), Zenden (Warnock 64),
Pongolle (Cisse 83)
Not used: Reina, Alonso, Carragher, Barragan
Yellow: None
Red: None
Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Germany)
Attendance: 42,175

Shots on target:
Shots off target:
Fouls conceded:



good strikers."

        Rafael Benitez

2408: Baffled Benitez puts Super Cup before...
2308: Rafa rues missed chances
2308: Liverpool progress despite defeat

Baffled Benitez puts
Super Cup before signings

The Daily Mail

Rafael Benitez does not expect to conclude any transfer business until after Friday's European Super Cup in Monaco.

But although Bolton have denied that Liverpool have put in a formal bid for their Greek midfielder Stelios Giannakopoulos, it is believed the Anfield club have made an initial approach for the player that could cost them only 1million.

The Euro 2004 winner has a buy-out clause in his contract that will allow him to consider any bid of 1million or more, and he could become the first of maybe four signings Benitez plans before the transfer window closes next Wednesday.

After witnessing his misfiring strikers struggle against CSKA Sofia, losing 1-0 in the third qualifying round second leg but reaching the group stages 3-2 on aggregate, Benitez said: "We have identified the players that we want, but I do not expect to complete any transfer until after we have returned from Monaco and Friday's final with CSKA Moscow."

Benitez continued to defend his front men, Djibril Cisse and Fernando Morientes, who squandered a host of chances against the Bulgarians.

The belief on the Kop that Michael Owen's possible return from Real Madrid would solve such problems is still producing non-committal reactions from Benitez. He said: "I want other players first, I am happy with my five strikers even now Milan Baros has gone."

While French youngster Florent Sinama-Pongolle was denying rumours that he is a target of Lyon after making his comeback following a knee injury in January, Benitez said of his front men: "If we did not create opportunities I would be worried, and if we have as many chances on Friday we will win the Super Cup."

But Benitez desperately searched for the positives from a night of high tension when his European champions almost blew their chance of reaching the Champions League group stages.

Benitez is just relived to be in with the big boys again, and pointed to last season's shock home defeat by Graz - also 1-0 - at the same third qualifying round stage as an omen.

The Liverpool boss said: "Last season we lost like this but went on to win the trophy, maybe we can do it again, why not?"

He added: "I want to look at the positives. I felt we created enough chances to have won the game, all we lacked was luck.

"They scored early on and it made it difficult, but it was hard for my team to play at 100 per cent knowing they have a big game on Friday and were already 3-1 up from the first leg.

"It is difficult to explain how we could have had so many chances and not scored, but I felt the strikers tried very hard and on another night could have had two or three.

"At the end we had the quality and to qualify was really the only thing that mattered. If players try their best there is not much you can say to them.

"I felt that although CSKA created the illusion of being in with a chance, they did not really create enough chances and we were comfortable in the end."

CSKA boss Miodrag Jesic praised his players and suggested one more goal would have caused a real drama at Anfield.

Valentin Iliev grabbed CSKA's winner, but Jesic said: "Maybe we would have given Liverpool a feeling of fear if we could have scored just one more. But all I can say is to praise my team for their efforts, they were outstanding, especially after the way we had lost the first leg.

"We came to Anfield to play attacking football and we achieved that. Right from the first minute we attacked and gave them problems, and once we had scored we felt that just one more would really have made all the difference to the game.

"If we had scored one more it would have been a night of real drama, but it would not come and they had quality at the end to see the game through.

"This sort of result, though, gives me confidence that soon we will be good enough to qualify for the group stages."

Rafa rues missed chances

By Rob Lancaster - Sky Sports

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez felt his side created enough chances to at least get a draw at home to CSKA Sofia.

The Reds saw their 13-match unbeaten run in Europe come to an end as the visiting Bulgarians secured a surprise 1-0 win at Anfield.

Valentin Iliev's well-taken strike in the first-half proved enough for the visitors, although Liverpool still progressed through to the group stages courtesy of a 3-1 win in Sofia.

Benitez felt the defeat was down to some wasteful finishing as the hosts were unable to make the most of the opportunities they created.

"You know if they score it is not easy, but, at the end, if you analyse the game, we created a lot of opportunities and we don't score," stated Benitez to ITV1.

"If we don't score it is difficult but we created so many chances we should have won or drawn at least.

"In the second half I thought about making changes but we were in control of the game and creating opportunities then."

Despite the lack of goals for his side, the Spaniard was quick to rule out a move for Michael Owen before the transfer deadline as he once again stated his priorities were a centre-back and a right winger.

"We need to score goals with the strikers we have at the moment. We have good strikers," he said.

Liverpool progress despite defeat

BBC Sport Online

Liverpool lost in Europe for the first time in 15 matches but still beat CSKA Sofia 3-2 on aggregate to reach the group stage of the Champions League.

With Liverpool 3-1 up from the first leg, they were expected to easily sweep aside the Bulgarians at Anfield.

But Valentin Iliev's sweetly-struck shot put Sofia ahead early on and Yordon Todoro almost reduced the deficit further shortly after.

John Arne Riise went closest for the Reds, who made hard work of the tie.

Liverpool were probably not helped by the lack of continuity in the team.

Steven Gerrard was out injured, while Jose Reina, Xabi Alonso, Jamie Carragher and Bolo Zenden, were all rested.

In came Scott Carson, Josemi, Dietmar Hamann, Riise and Darren Potter.

Following the departure of Milan Baros to Aston Villa on Tuesday, Djibril Cisse and Fernando Morientes were partnered up front.

It gave the pair the chance to show Liverpool would not need to make the much-rumoured return of Michael Owen a reality.

And they did well, initially, with Cisse unlucky not to lift his shot over Sofia keeper Dejan Maksic when through on goal and, later, Morientes firing off target after linking up well with his strike partner.

But after looking confident for the opening 10 minutes, the European champions then started to look anything but.

Sofia began to stroke the ball around crisply and their one-touch passing left Mohammed Sissoko, in particular, bamboozled.

Far too often the long-legged midfielder was too quick to go to ground, finding himself bypassed.

And it was a Sissoko lunge which led to Sofia's breakthrough, when he conceded a free-kick on the right-hand edge of the penalty area.

With the set-piece taken quickly, and short, Liverpool stood and watched as centre-back Iliev struck a superb, curling shot into the left corner.

Shortly after, the visitors' fluid passing nearly created a second goal but the influential Yordon Todorov shot over after Carson's clearance had fell to him.

Liverpool emerged more determined after the break and Riise - by some way his side's best player - went close three times.

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Thor Zakariassen