Friday, January 21, 2022

Liverpool fail to reach Standard in Liege

It was disappointment for the Fernando Torres and Robbie Keane duo here Wednesday as Liverpool stuttered to a goalless draw against Standard Liege in the final Champions League qualifying match.

Kick-off was delayed to allow groundsmen to clear toilet rolls from the pitch and, when the action got underway, Liverpool had to weather an early goal scare which would have changed the complexion of the tie.

In the sixth minute, Alvaro Arbeloa gave away a cheap free-kick from which the ever-present Marouane Fellaini rattled a header against the post.

It was criminally sloppy defending that should have cost Liverpool more than it did, with many in the stadium justifiably claiming that the ball had gone over the line.

After the match Liverpool keeper Jose Reina told ITV television that he wasn't sure if the ball had crossed the line.

“I don't know,” Reina said. “I still don't know. We will have to see it on TV because it's much easier to see. The important thing is we got a result and we have to improve for the second leg.”

Liverpool were left looking like European novices four minutes later when they conceded a penalty after Reds debutante Andrea Dosseda was adjudged to have handled the ball.

But Standard's Brazilian left-back Dante tamely hit the spot-kick against Reina to give the visitors a lifeline.

That proved to be Liege's best chance to breach the Brits and no doubt Dante felt like descending a few rings in hell when he thought about what an opportunity he had.

Liverpool replied on nine minutes after Torres was dragged down by a clumsy tackle, a theme over the 90 minutes, but Alonso battered the free-kick off the wall.

Liverpool were looking a little ragged by halfway as Liege set the pace, untroubled in defence, and with Dalmat's probing runs and incisive passing asking big questions of Rafa Benitez's gameplan.

And there was still no impact from the much-vaunted Keane and Torres partnership as the first 45 minutes drew to a close.

Liverpool started the second half much as they ended the first, with high, long balls up front, badly suited to the new strikeforce.

It looked as if their defenders had forgotten that Peter Crouch had been sold to Portsmouth in the close season.

On the 50th minute Igor De Camargo scuffed a great opportunity after a telling pass from Alex Witsel, Belgium's young player of the year.

A sluggish Torres effort was all a harrassed and harried Liverpool had to show by the 60th minute.

Liege, who suffered only one domestic defeat last season, were piling on the pressure, Dante picking out De Camargo in the 65th minute, but the striker should have made Reina work harder.

Suddenly the spectre of Rangers, who fell to Lithuanian minnows FBK Kaunas last week, loomed large in Liege.

Steven Gerrard came on for Keane as Benitez called time on his dynamic duo, pulling Dirk Kuyt into a more forward role.

But even Gerrard's talismanic presence couldn't turn the tide as De Camargo again darted and probed getting behind the Liverpool defence to send the ball inches wide.

It was Liege, playing with guts and gusto, who were the more active in the closing stages, and they will feel they should have got on the scoresheet.

On this showing Keane and Torres have some way to go to live up to their billing as the new Dalglish and Rush.

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