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Reds escape with stalemate
13 Aug 2008 - 22:25:06
Liverpool held on for a goalless draw in the first leg of their Champions League third qualifying round tie after being outplayed by Belgium club Standard Liege.
Liege will travel to Liverpool in two weeks' time in the knowledge that a first leg victory was within inches of their grasp.
It took just seven minutes for the Liverpool backline to be breached when a free-kick from the left found Marouane Fellaini in enough space to aim a header at Pepe Reina's goal.
His head strained to flick the ball to the Spaniard's left but the set-piece instead found the 6ft 5inch striker's right shoulder and the ball spun towards the right corner of Reina's goal.
An inch to the right and the champions of Belgium would have been ahead, but instead the ball struck the inside of the post and was clawed off the line by Reina in dramatic style.
Liverpool's 25-year-old keeper kept the Reds in the game five minutes later when Dante's poor penalty cannoned back off Reina's legs.
That it should never have been given will allow the Liverpool team to feel that justice was done, as Andrea Dossena's handball from Wilfried Dalmat's right-wing cross clearly took place outside the away side's penalty area.
Yet Liverpool continued to look impotent as Liege came close time and again in the opening half an hour, Fellaini finding more space and heading wide of Reina's right-hand post on the 20 minute mark.
Xabi Alonso curled a 37th minute free-kick over the Liege bar in what would have been an entirely forgetful attacking move if it hadn't resulted in their first and only shot of the first half.
It got no better for the 2005 Champions League winners after half-time when their opponents came out from the break rejuvenated and full of energy.
However, an improving Liverpool defence did enough to prevent any greater chances being created and only a long, looping cross that was flicked on by Igor De Camargo created any real trouble for Reina, who got enough of a hand to the ball.
It was a largely forgettable game for Liverpool, but one they must improve on if they have any intention of progressing to the Champions League group stages.
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