Undone in the last minute again and maybe for last and decisive time in this seasons Champions League?
After the last two games against Lyon we won’t need lessons on seeing things through to the end. Players of our experience know the score anyway however, although the disappointment is just as deep as it was two weeks ago, at least we can take solace from a much improved performance. Perhaps that makes Lisandro’s 90th minute equaliser even more heartbreaking as we were by far the better side and could, with a keener eye for goal and a small dash of luck, have had the points in the bag by half time?
With our problems one always got the feeling that, sooner or later, our defence would be tested. However Lyon only had two chances, the goal and another which Reina dealt with easily. Both were down to mistakes by one of both of the centre back pairing of Agger and Kyrgiakos however, it was first time out together such is the make do and mend policy at the moment. Considering this it was great team performance, one of tenacity, great spirit and some decent football. It is pity that so much was riding on it and that we couldn’t extend out dominance just a tad longer.
Rafa’s side was another shuffle out of necessity. Carragher was at right back to accommodate Agger and Kyrgiakos. Aqulinai was on the bench, a sign that he is recovering and close or how short we are?
It’s easy to dwell on the Lyon goal due to it’s time however, in a game which we totally bossed I guess one has to look at the four or five decent chances we spurned. The first was Torres’ shot after good linkage between Insua and Benayoun, a foot either side of the keeper and we would have been in front. Later Kuyt, from another Insua cross, produced a great stretch and tip over from Lloris. Voronin had the best chance of the half running onto a long ball, keeping his head but firing onto Lloris legs. Oh I how a felt for him. It was a wonderful opportunity to up his credit rating and the chance seemed to visibly affect him for a while.
Elsewhere we were solid in midfield, Mascherano and Lucas showed increasing signs of settling down together and becoming a stronger collective force. Benayoun was as creative as ever and we were even treated to the rare sight of Jamie Carragher charging down the wing on the overlap, taking on Cissokho and trying to get a cross in! I don’t know what Insua had done before the game but whatever it was he should do it more. He got into some great forward positions, had a hand in two of our three first half chances and defended as if his life depended on it. His best performance in a Liverpool shirt? If not then certainly a testament to his character and bottle after a less than convincing performance at Craven Cottage.
It was good first half performance that put Lyon on the back foot and instilling a caution into their play that one wouldn’t expect from the home side. This continued in the second with Lucas shot cannoning off Lloris’ hand, Kuyt’s overhead kick from the rebound was cleared off the line by Cissoko. Then enter Ryan Babel.
Much has been written about Babel and his erratic attempts to try and live up to his potential and again he showed why he is such an enigma. Within minutes he instilled hope with a marvellous long range effort lashed into the top corner giving the keeper no chance. A few minutes later he shaped up for a free kick out that needed to be delivered into the area or produce a save from the keeper however it was so off target that it went out for a throw in! However, Babel clicked for one vital moment, a moment that surely would give us the three points we deserved? Sadly, Lisandro had other ideas exploiting hesitancy and poor decision making between Agger and Kyrgiakos to fire home even though Reina managed to get a hand on it.
It’s clearly an uphill battle to qualify. Our chances are even slimmer than they were two years ago. However while there is a chance, hope remains. We need a huge slice of luck. If fate is a fair player then surely, after our two games, Lyon owe us something and they can deliver by collecting points in Florence?
And the longer term? We don’t play until Monday and then there is an international break. Amble opportunity to retire, lick our wounds, regain our strength. Although it’s hard to see past the group implications at present we can at least take some solace from the fact that we were stronger tonight than we have been for some time?
Liverpool: Reina, Insua, Agger, Kyrgiakos, Carragher (captain), Benayoun, Mascherano, Leiva, Kuyt, Voronin, Torres. Subs – Cavalieri, Aquilani, Babel, Ngog, Spearing, Darby, Sanchez Ayala
Lyon: Lloris, Cris, Reveillere, Cissokho, Kallstrom, Michel Bastos, Pjanic, Makoun, Toulalan, Lopez, Gomis Subs – Vercoutre, , Govou, Delgado, Tafer, Gassama, Gonalons