Rufete strike sinks Reds
By Simon Fudge
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
The Spanish champions were again too much for their English opponents, despite scoring a single goal in the first half through Francisco Rufete.
The Estadio Mestalla club move on as group winners while Liverpool are likely to need an away victory in Switzerland against Basel in their final group match to advance.
The Reds started brightly with early pressure on the Spaniards, as they looked to carve out a goal.
However, it was Valencia that went closest to scoring first when Pablo Aimar played a pass to fellow Argentine Kily Gonzalez on the left.
His looping cross hit Liverpool's crossbar and bounced away to safety, much to the relief of goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek.
But the Spanish champions continued to venture forward, with outspoken Valencia striker John Carew forcing Liverpool captain Sami Hyypia to bring him down just outside the penalty box.
However, Aimar's right-footed free-kick sailed over the bar and into The Kop, causing no danger to Dudek.
It was the Group B leaders who were looking the more threatening at this stage, with Ruben Baraja missing a glorious chance in front of goal after a goal-mouth scramble when he screamed his shot over the bar as well.
But the away side's mounting pressure finally paid off eleven minutes before the break when Rufete struck to make it 1-0.
Curro Torres played a ball along the deck into Liverpool's box from the right for Carew, whose lay back to Rufete allowed him to take a side-foot shot.
His strike took a wicked deflection of Hyypia and left Dudek with no chance to make a save as the ball found the open net.
With Valencia seemingly keeping Liverpool on the back-foot, Steven Gerrard had the best chance of the half for The Reds after Michael Owen played the ball into him at the edge of Valencia's box.
However, the England international's side-foot shot on goal was blocked away by the on-coming Santiago Canizares to safety.
In fact, it was the away side again who nearly extended their lead when Carew ran on to a ball on the right side of goal but his right-foot shot agonisingly ran across the face of Liverpool's net with Dudek just getting a hand to give away a corner.
The opening half ended with Valencia looking the far better side and Gerard Houllier's men needing a vital spark to rouse their massive home support in the second period.
The Premiership leaders nearly lifted the supporters to their feet three minutes after the break when Emile Heskey made a darting run with the ball into the Valencia box on the right.
His cut-back found Owen, who made a move before shooting right-footed but the on-rushing Canizares showed his class with an excellent save as the danger was cleared.
Liverpool looked far more inspired at this stage as they began to press Valencia with chances of their own but the away side's stingy back-line was holding firm in front of Canizares.
The away side kept Liverpool honest with a couple of chances of their own as Baraja shot just wide of goal and substitute Miguel Angel Angulo forcing a good diving save from Dudek with a rasping strike.
The Reds pushed hard late on to find a much-needed equaliser but the always-capable Canizares was there to thwart the Merseysiders.
Dietmar Hamann saw a deflected free-kick find the arms of the Spanish international keeper with five to go and substitute striker Milan Baros nearly made the break-through with a late strike after chesting down a Hyypia cross but Canizares again was on his toes to make another save with a minute remaining.
In the end, however, it was Valencia's evening at Anfield as they clinched top spot in the group, leaving Liverpool with plenty of work still to do in Switzerland to advance to the second phase.
The other Group B tie between Spartak Moscow and Basel was postponed till next Wednesday as a mark of respect to the Moscow theatre hostage tragedy that occurred over the last week in the Russian capital.
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Champions League Group B
Liverpool 0-1 Valencia
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