Debrecen 0 Liverpool 1: Ngog strike not enough as Rafa joins the also-rans

25 November 2009 06:39
Harry Houdini might have been born here but the city did not become a stage for Anfield's escapologists on this occasion.

Liverpool's luck ran out here and this time all that talk of miracles was silenced in a single sentence of Hungarian in the 29th minute. 'Fiorentina vezet egy-nullra,' declared the stadium announcer. Few needed a translator to realise the Italians had taken the lead against Lyon in the corresponding Group E fixture, thus all but rendering David Ngog's goal an irrelevance.

That Liverpool continued to dominate the champions of Hungary, enjoying 70 per cent of the possession prior to a couple of hairy moments in the final few minutes, in the vain hope that Lyon would equalise in Italy was to the credit of Rafa Benitez's side.

Down and out: Rafa Benitez contemplates Liverpool's failure as Steven Gerrard trudges off

But credit remains in short supply when they have to takeresponsibility for arriving here in such a precarious position in thefirst place; for losing those two matches and somehow failing to seizecontrol of a Champions League group that should have been relativelyeasy for a club that had progressed to the knock-out stages of thecompetition for the six seasons prior to this one; for winning onlyonce in 10 matches and so all but blowing an entire season.

They are out of the Champions League and out of the running in therace for the Barclays Premier League title, and getting them to recoverfrom this will be the greatest challenge Benitez has faced infive-and-a-bit seasons at Anfield.

It is no good following the Irish in blaming the French, and it isno good blaming injuries, of which there have been many, either.

It is down to the quality of the individuals who occupy the role of understudy to his first-team regulars players like Ngog, Lucas, Emiliano Insua and SotirisKyrgiakos. Players who should not be representing a club of Liverpool'sconsiderable stature.

The final stages of this contest pretty much summed things up. No Ngog on the pitch meant no recognised striker for a club with a proud tradition for producing some of the finest forwards European football has ever seen.

Breakthrough: David Ngog flicks home the opening goal for Liverpool

Benitez will not be sacked. Managing director Christian Purslow saidas much last night and it would amount to a ludicrous over-reactioneven if a club already with debts of £290million could have done withthe financial rewards that come with the progress to the knock-outstages.

But he now needs to reflect on the many difficulties he hasencountered this season and make sure this fiasco does not happenagain. A serious review of the scouting set-up that has delivered toomany mediocre players would be a good place to start.

A team that lifted the European Cup in 2005, so nearly did so againtwo years later and ran Manchester United close to the championshiplast season deserves better than to be undermined by a lack of strengthin depth. If Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard are missing Torreswas again last night it should not mean a season disintegrates.

They deserve better than the position they found themselves in lastnight dead and buried with an hour and one more game of this firstround remaining.equalise in Italy was to the credit of Rafa Benitez'sside.

False hopes: Liverpool celebrate Ngog's goal, but the cheers were to turn to tears

One can only imagine how difficult and depressing it will be whenFiorentina roll into Anfield a fortnight from now. Comfortable Italianqualifiers against a teamthat should have strolled into the last 16 but somehow made a mess ofit.

If the supporters do turn up, it will be fascinating to see how theyrespond to the sight of Benitez and a side that, particularly afterlast season, had promised so much. The evidence so far would suggestthe fans remain behind their Spanish manager. A chorus of You'll NeverWalk Alone immediately followed the bitter disappointment of this exit,along with an amusing declaration that they would now win the Europa League final in Hamburg next May.But let's see how they respond if disappointment follows at Evertonthis weekend and Blackburn a week after that.

For what it's worth, it owed something to that revolutionaryplacenta treatment that Liverpool enjoyed their second win in 11matches last night.

Fabio Aurelio was among those who benefited from a trip to Belgradeand it was the Brazilian who delivered the cross that Jamie Carraghernodded down before Ngog struck from close range.

So poor were Debrecen that they offered little in response, withNgog almost scoring a second with a long-range effort that forced afine save from Vukasin Poleksic.

News was spreading fast of events in Florence, where the Italianshit the post twice in 30 seconds against a Lyon side who had alreadyqualified and were not putting up much of a fight.

Loyal: Liverpool fans show their support in Debrecen, but their patience will be severely tested now

But nobody expected news of a goal to be delivered in quite thefashion it was directly to every living soul inside the Ferenc PuskasStadium thanks to a stadium announcer who didn't seem to mind that itall but killed the game as a contest.

It was no surprise to see Debrecen almost score within a minute of the announcement. No surprise to seeLiverpool's defenders suffer a momentary lapse of concentration andallow Gergely Rudolf to threaten with a header that bounced just wide.

It was no surprise to see the Hungarians go as close as they did to scoring in the final fewminutes. Lyon had not hit back with an equaliser and Liverpool knewdamn well it was never going to come.

'We could have won all the games we played,' said Benitez afterwards.

They could have and they should have. But they didn't, and it is now up to Liverpool's manager to work out why.

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Source: Daily_Mail