Liverpool advances despite loss

Liverpool advanced to the quarterfinals of the Champions League despite losing to FC Barcelona 1-0 in the second leg of the second round on Tueday.

updated: March 22, 2007 06:37 IST
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Liverpool, England:

Liverpool's second straight loss at home won't hurt nearly as bad as the first. The five-time European champions advanced to the quarterfinals of the Champions League on away goals on Tuesday despite losing to FC Barcelona 1-0 in the second leg of the second round. The elimination means Barcelona is the latest team to fail to defend the European Cup in the Champions League era. Since it was renamed in 1992, no club has won the title twice in a row, and the last back-to-back winner of the European Cup was AC Milan in 1989-90. "We've got great spirit, grit and determination," Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard said. "It gives us great confidence, going through against the best side in Europe over two legs." Eidur Gudjohnsen scored the lone goal in the 75th minute at Anfield, but Liverpool still advanced with two away goals because of its 2-1 win in Barcelona two weeks ago. Gudjohnsen collected a pass from midfield, beat the Liverpool offsides trap and rolled the ball past goalkeeper Pepe Reina. Four days ago, Manchester United scored an injury-time goal to beat Liverpool 1-0 in the Premier League. "I think that I set up my team nicely tonight tactically, and I think we deserved to score more on more than one occasion in the first half," Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said. Tuesday's match was the first time since taking over Liverpool that American owners George Gillet and Tom Hicks witnessed Anfield's electrifying atmosphere on a European night. "Anfield is a very difficult place to come," Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard said. "Liverpool were up for it. They were highly motivated, but that's not to say we didn't want to win just as much as them." Liverpool attack Liverpool surged forward in the opening stages, exploiting Barcelona's three-man defense in a 3-4-3 formation. Liverpool has six shots on target in the first half, while the visitors couldn't muster a single threatening shot. "We were unlucky not to go in at halftime ahead," Gerrard said. "Barcelona are so good going forward, they play such nice football, but we stuck in there and are in the last eight now." John Arne Riise saw a powerful strike deflected wide in the seventh minute. Four minutes later, he hit the crossbar with another powerful, left-footed drive. Craig Bellamy's shot from an acute angle was saved by Barcelona Victor Valdes into the feet of Dirk Kuyt in the 25th minute as Liverpool continued to create chances. The goalkeeper recovered to block his shot and, when Riise connected with the deflected ball, Carles Puyol cleared off the line. Liverpool's Momo Sissoko also hit the crossbar from 30 meters in the 31st despite having an open net to fire at after Valdes' mis-kicked clearance. Jamie Carragher controlled the heart of the Liverpool defence and helped to sustain his team's dominance in the first half - but Barcelona was more threatening after the break. "It's quite different to play against Liverpool in the style that they play," Rijkaard said. "They've got a lot of depth, they get forward quickly, they're very direct and they create danger and they make it very difficult for us to get into their box." In the 48th, Ronaldinho curled a free kick into the arms of Reina and, two minutes later, with only Reina to beat, the Brazilian hit the post. "Sure we began to suffer a little bit when we came under some pressure from Barca, but even in the second half we were hitting them on the break," Benitez said. With 20 minutes to go and needing two goals, Rijkaard switched his tactics for a final assault on the Liverpool goal. Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o, coming off a long injury layoff, was taken off in the 60th minute and replaced by Ludovic Giuly. Defender Lilian Thuram was then replaced by Gudjohnsen, leaving just two at the back. "I can't deny that my players worked very, very hard in trying to turn the result around and even though we weren't at our best in terms of our general play," Rijkaard said. "I've got to say that the players fought to the very last minute."