Goal-shy Reds' reign is over
By Andy Clarke
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Liverpool's reign as European champions is over after a 2-0 win for Benfica at Anfield.
Liverpool's reign as European champions is over after a 2-0 defeat to Benfica at Anfield saw them lose their first knockout phase tie 3-0 on aggregate.
Rafa Benitez's side needed to score after losing the first leg to a late goal a fortnight ago, but a frustrating 90 minutes highlighted the attacking shortcomings which have blighted them in recent months.
Simao Sabrosa's stunning first half strike left them with a mountain to climb, but only after Liverpool had created and missed a glut of opportunities.
Twice last season, against Olympiakos in their last group game and Milan in the final, The Reds found three second half goals to keep alive their European dream, but this time they were found wanting as the Portuguese champions dug in after the break.
Liverpool were perhaps a little unfortunate that three of their best chances fell to Jamie Carragher, the goal-shy defender, while they hit the woodwork twice and had another Robbie Fowler goal disallowed, his third since rejoining the club.
Liverpool began the night needing only one goal to extend the tie so it was no surprise that they did not go for broke in the early stages.
They did, however, do most of the pressing, but in keeping with their recent form they looked uncertain in front of goal.
Crouch, who saw an early effort deflected onto the post, was the biggest culprit, as he missed his side's best chance of the night shortly before Benfica found their killer goal.
Steven Gerrard was the architect with some neat footwork and a clever pass on the edge of the area which left the giant striker in the clear. Goalkeeper Moretta de Souza went to ground, but Crouch struck his low shot against his legs.
Carragher was only inches wide with an instinctive close range shot and headers from Crouch and Morientes brought half-hearted penalty appeals.
Having soaked up the early pressure, the visitors went on the attack. Geovanni showed some exquisite control before volleying against the bar from 30 yards and Simao's follow-up header fell into the arms of a relieved Jose Reina.
That was a let-off for Liverpool, but they were not so fortunate six minutes later when Simao took a touch 25 yards from goal before dipping a vicious right-foot shot over Reina and into the top corner.
That left the home side needing three goals to rescue the situation and they almost got one back straight away when Beto sliced a clearance only inches over his own crossbar.
From the resulting corner, Carragher jumped highest in a crowded penalty area and headed against a post.
As Benfica withdrew to the edge of their own penalty area, Liverpool found it more difficult to break them down and the anticipated second half onslaught never really emerged.
Gerrard flashed a volley wide and Xabi Alonso brought a magnificent save from Moretto with a ferocious left-foot shot from distance.
Crouch's header was easily saved by the visiting keeper, Carragher headed another good chance clear of the goal and Fowler turned the ball over the line only to see that Djibril Cisse's corner was adjudged to have curled out of play.
As the hosts ran out of ideas, Benfica broke and killed off the tie with a second goal a minute from time, substitute Fabrizio Miccoli beating Reina with an acrobatic volley from six yards.
Click here for Liverpool v Benfica player ratings.
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|7||Shots on Target||3|
|9||Shots off Target||4|