REDS SHOW METTLE TO EARN ROMA DRAW
By Patrick Goss
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Although The Reds were put under pressure in the closing half an hour, they stood firm against their Roman hosts and will be delighted to have brought back a point from Italy.
A solid defensive display and a by now ubiquitous good game from Jerzy Dudek in the Liverpool goal kept Roma at bay as Marcos Assuncao, Emerson and Lima all tested the keeper.
Assuncao came within inches of converting a wicked curling free-kick, and Emerson should have done better with a free header from a corner.
On the whole Roma were as disappointing as Liverpool were impressive - failing to create and looking distinctly below par on the night.
Francesco Totti and Gabriel Batistuta both looked jaded, although in truth neither were given the chance to play by the hard working Reds.
An impressive first half had seen Liverpool quell the Roma threat with amazing ease.
In fact The Reds, playing in the unfamiliar white of their third kit because of Roma's red and yellow jerseys, looked the more likely to score, with the abilities of Michael Owen and Emile Heskey clearly causing their Italian hosts problems.
It was apparent immediately that both sides are blessed with players that can decide a match in a magic moment, and Sami Hyypia needed to be alert to throw himself in front of a Gianni Guigou drive after 12 minutes.
Vladimir Smicer did not have his best 45 minutes in a Liverpool shirt, but he showed his impressive technique to volley a long lofted Jamie Carragher pass goalwards only to see his effort easily claimed by Francesco Antonioli.
A lightning break handed Gabriel Batistuta his first half chance, but somewhat surprisingly the Argentine icon showed none of his trademark coolness in the penalty area and he snatched a left-foot effort tamely wide.
Heskey, working tirelessly to pick up the scraps handed to The Reds by the opposition, had perhaps the best chance to break the deadlock after half an hour when Owen laid the ball back with Antonioli out of position only to see his strike-partner fire his chance wide.
Emerson drew a fine save from Dudek with a drive from outside the area and referee Dick Jol was unimpressed with a fairly flagrant dive from Batistuta after the slightest of touches by Carragher in the area.
Liverpool can be greatly pleased by this display - and will feel that they have the upper hand when the Romans visit Anfield later in this Champions League campaign.
In the other Group B game Barcelona came from two goals behind to earn a draw against Turkish visitors Galatasaray.
Barcelona were shocked by an early goal from Umit Karan, who had just tested Roberto Bonano with an earlier drive.
Umit and Patrik Andersson both jumped for an Urgan Benbehe cross and the ball looped off their heads and over Bonano to the shock of the Camp Nou crowd.
Umit also had a hand in the second, drawing a fine save with another header from close range and watching team-mate Andres Fleurquin convert the rebound and double the lead.
The second half was another story, as Barcelona proved that, for all their defensive faults, they are a truly world class side going forward.
Javier Saviola proved the hero for the Primera Liga giants, ably assisted by Marc Overmars - with the young Argentine scoring goals either side of a red-card for Gala star Capone.
The first was largely down to Overmars' tenacity - with the former Arsenal man chasing down a Gerard Lopez cross and cutting back for Saviola, who fired emphatically home from close range.
With Capone's dismissal marring the match Barca kept their heads, and levelled when another Overmars cross was touched on by Rivaldo and Saviola again finished with aplomb.
Hakan Unsal was then dismissed as the Turks were reduced to nine men, but the Catalan side could not take advantage of their superior numbers, and will rue a draw on home soil.