skip to content

Martin Samuel: When Voronin's your only hope, Reds must know game's up

More

06 Nov 2009 12:46:51

Martin Samuel: When Voronin's your only hope, Reds must know game's up

European royalty, said the red and white banner, but this time it really does look as if the king is dead. Liverpool's destiny in the Champions League is out of their hands and, if Fiorentina win their next match at home, this season's campaign will be concluded before the final group game at Anfield. A stadium that is traditionally so full of noise and vitality on European nights will then bear subdued witness to a meaningless encounter that has purpose only as a metaphor for Liverpool's increasing loss of direction under Rafael Benitez, the manager. Lyon's equalising goal came late enough for stalwarts to claim some degree of misadventure but the fact is Liverpool were not good enough at the Stade de Gerland, and have not been at the majority of venues in Europe this season, including Anfield. The single goal victory over Debrecen has been placed in perspective by the 13 goals the Hungarian champions have conceded in three games subsequently. Lyon have been allowed to score late goals twice, to win at Anfield and then draw here, while the 2-0 defeat in Florence has placed Fiorentina in the box seat to claim the second qualification place in Group E. Late strike: Sotiris Kyrgiakos is powerless to prevent Lisandro Lopez's equaliser Lyon went through last night, another reason why Fiorentina will hope to wrap it up when the teams next meet. There can be no complaints if that happens. Liverpool had their chances, even here, when a goal from Ryan Babel gave them a lifeline, but they could not hold the lead through injury time. The defending for Lyon's goal from Lisandro was poor, reflecting the makeshift nature of Liverpool's back four, but there mitigation ends. Benitez has had five years of ceaseless transfer dealing to assemble a squad capable of rolling with the punches at home and in Europe, and is too often exposed. Yes, Lyon appeared fragile and had Steven Gerrard been available and Fernando Torres fully fit the scoreline may have been different, but Benitez should have more to call upon than two stellar talents, one inherited, by now. Hard times: Benitez has failed to make the most of the transfer funds at his disposal Maybe he does, but in preferring Andriy Voronin down the centre he ignored the opportunity to partner Dirk Kuyt with Torres, the Dutchman toiling in the wide areas once more. Voronin, true to form, missed a glorious early chance. Benitez cannot always be depicted as a victim of circumstance; on nights like this he must take responsibility for the big decisions. And removing Torres with three minutes remaining was certainly another. It looked inconsequential at the time, a manager protecting an injured player with the game won, but it had the effect of releasing Cris, who had been marking Torres and immediately went to join Lyon's attack. Wastrel: Voronin trudges off after another lamentable display He was involved in the move that led to the goal, and certainly helped Lyon front-load the team in those final moments. Liverpool do not play again until Monday when Birmingham City visit Anfield, so what difference was another eight minutes going to make to Torres? He was removed at Fulham on Saturday with the score tied 1-1, and Liverpool lost 3-1, but if anything this was worse. At Craven Cottage, Benitez could be said to be keeping him in reserve, but what was his reasoning here? The travelling supporters still sung the manager's name, but they are an admirably loyal lot. Their reaction to a result that could damage spirits in the dressing- room beyond repair was a chorus of the club anthem. The players, warming down, looked on blankly. It seemed like so much whistling to keep the spirits up. Dejected: Kuyt and Co carry the can If Liverpool become only the third English team to exit the Champions League at the group stage since it became a 32-team tournament, we will know what this signifies. It happened to Manchester United four years ago, and they went on to win three championships and the Champions League, but Sir Alex Ferguson's squad had a solid backbone and Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney coming of age. There is no comparison to the raw material Benitez is working with, Torres head and shoulders above his team-mates, yet reduced without Gerrard by his side. Gerrard has, in turn, been weakened by the sale of Xabi Alonso and his vision was missed again last night. It is missed whenever Liverpool lose, or under-perform, and as they strived to find a way past a rather ordinary Lyon side, it seemed as if Torres was searching for his passes forlornly, as one might for a lost family pet. So some problems will be solved when Gerrard returns from injury, but far from all. Frustration: Torres deserves better Lyon are hardly indestructible at home no English team has lost here since Tottenham in 1967 yet they did not have to be. Backed into corners previously Liverpool have turned in astonishing powerhouse displays such as the 16 goals scored in three matches against Besiktas, Porto and Marseille two years ago, but this was tame by comparison. Watching as Lyon laboured for long periods, the question remained: how did Liverpool get into such trouble in this group? If Lyon are the best of it, this says little for the rest. To their fans, Lyon are the Gones. It means kids. Liverpool, meanwhile, appear to be Goners. Soon to be gone from a tournament that was supposed to be their speciality; gone, too, the air of supremacy they had contrived to assume under Benitez. Gone for good, perhaps.  Liverpool down and on their way out - but defiant Rafa Benitez remains hopeful of a miracleLyon 1 Liverpool 1: Rafa Benitez left to walk alone after last-gasp Lopez strikeLyon 1 Liverpool 1: The action as it happenedLIVERPOOL FC


Daily_Mail

Sponsored links

Facebook comments