Debrecen 0 Liverpool FC 1 - Dominic King's Champions League verdict
EVEN in dark times it pays to look for humour and just after their exit from the Champions League had been confirmed, Liverpool's supporters found a positive. 'We're the greatest team in Europe,' they proclaimed, 'and we're going to Germany!' Madrid might have been where they had dreamed of bringing this campaign to a glorious conclusion but now the focus has switched to Hamburg. They may have travelled to the city of Harry Houdini's birth hoping to see Liverpool stage another great escape but, as many feared, the reality proved different. For the first time since 2004, the Europa League is back on the Anfield agenda. Despite securing only their second victory since September 26 by beating Debrecen in Budapest, Liverpool were subjected to more suffering and given the way this desperate season has been unfolding, we should not have expected anything different. An early exit from the Champions League is, without doubt, the hardest thing Liverpool's players and supporters have had to swallow and it would be easy to start ranting and raving about their myriad failings. Reality, on the other hand, dictates otherwise. Fiorentina might have ended their hopes of lifting that famous silver trophy but there are still big prizes to be won and a shirt to be fought for - the Reds dare not hoist the white flag now. This contest had the potential to be problematic for Liverpool, given Debrecen's players knew they had nothing to lose and had the raucous backing of the locals here, who had turned out in vast numbers. Within four minutes, however, it was clear to see the Reds were operating on a different level to Debrecen and, accordingly, they were soon in front thanks to a poacher's strike from David Ngog. There are certainly a large number of supporters who remain to be convinced by Ngog, a £1.5m signing from Paris St Germain in 2008, and questions have been asked frequently about whether he can cut it as one of Liverpool's main strikers.
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