2 of 10 people who visits my blog use Firefox!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Champions League, Liverpool 0-1 Barcelona

Liverpool end Barça challenge

Liverpool FC withstood a late barrage by FC Barcelona to book their place in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals as the 2005 winners ousted the holders on away goals, despite Eidur Gudjohnsen bringing the visitors a 1-0 victory at Anfield. With the aggregate scores level at 2-2, Liverpool's first-leg success proved decisive and kept the five-time champions dreaming of another triumph.

Given how successful Liverpool had been in unsettling their hosts in the Nou Camp, there was no surprise in Benitez deployment of the same line-up. Nor in the attacking intentions declared in Barcelona's 3-4-3 formation, spearheaded by the attacking trident of Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Ronaldinho.
Nearly quarter of an hour had elapsed however before Barca could translate those intentions into a movement of real menace, Iniesta's forward surge setting up a shooting opportunity for Deco, who was frustrated by Jamie Carragher's determined block on the edge of the area.

By the stage of Carragher's block Liverpool might easily have extended their first-leg advantage thanks to the energetic efforts of the first-leg match-winner John Arne Riise. Having already screwed one 20-yard effort narrowly wide of Victor Valdes' left-hand post, Riise hammered a second against the bar after selling his marker, Oleguer, a dummy that Ronaldinho would have been proud of.

There was another narrow escape for the Catalans in the 26th minute, goal-line blocks keeping out the follow-up efforts of Dirk Kuyt and Riise after Bellamy had got in behind Carles Puyol to force a good save from Valdes at his near post. But those let-offs were surpassed seven minutes later, when the Barcelona goalkeeper miscued a clearance from the edge of his area straight to Momo Sissoko.

From 35 yards out, Sissoko had the goal at his mercy but his lob was struck a fraction too firmly, the ball ending in the crowd via the top of the bar.

Another chance went begging within 60 seconds of the restart, Gerrard's pacy cross from the right dipping on to the six-yard line for Bellamy, who appeared to be caught by surprise at his good fortune and was unable to get the ball out from under his feet in time to get a shot away.

That miss and those that preceded it might have proved ruinously expensive if Ronaldinho had been able to convert the chance he generated from himself soon afterwards after collecting Deco's short pass on the edge of the area with his back to goal.

A wonderful 270-degree swivel was followed by a sidestep past Carragher but the Brazilian maestro could not quite complete what would have been a masterpiece of a goal, his sidefooted shot striking the inside of the post with Jose Reina well beaten.

That moment of genius apart, Liverpool rarely looked like being opened up until Gudjohnsen entered the fray. Gudjohnsen first meaningful involvement in the match saw him find just enough space in the inside left channel to collect Xavi's superbly judged pass before carrying the ball round Reina and prodding it into the net.

Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Arbeloa, Gerrard, Sissoko, Alonso, Riise (Aurelio 77), Kuyt (Crouch 89), Bellamy (Pennant 67).
Subs Not Used: Dudek, Hyypia, Mascherano, Zenden.

Booked: Arbeloa, Sissoko, Pennant, Reina. Barcelona: Valdes, Thuram (Gudjohnsen 71), Marquez, Puyol, Oleguer, Xavi, Iniesta, Deco, Messi, Eto'o (Giuly 61), Ronaldinho.
Subs Not Used: Jorquera, Zambrotta, Edmilson, Sylvinho, Saviola.

Booked: Thuram.

Goals: Gudjohnsen 75.

Champions League Liverpool 0-1 Barcelona, highlights, missed chances and Barca's Goal: