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  Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 20:40 GMT 21:40 UK
Liverpool suffer Euro woe
Danny Murphy tangles with Bayer's Diego Placente
Danny Murphy tangles with Bayer's Diego Placente
Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 Liverpool
(Bayer Leverkusen go through 4-3 on aggregate)

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Liverpool's defensive resolve failed them when they needed it most as they exited the Champions League in dramatic fashion in Leverkusen.

A hat-trick of missed chances from Michael Owen also proved costly as the Reds missed out on a possible semi-final against Manchester United.

Gerard Houllier's men were within six minutes of glory, only to succumb to Lucio's decisive late strike.

Substitute Jari Litmanen appeared to have put the visitors through on away goals with a superbly-taken strike after 78 minutes.


Maybe this game was a bit too much for the boys. We usually finish stronger
Gerard Houllier

But after recovering from Michael Ballack's double and a Dimitri Berbatov goal, the Finn's riposte was ultimately in vain.

Brazilian Lucio was the man who dashed Liverpool's dreams, springing the offside trap on 84 minutes before driving a left-footed shot under Jerzy Dudek.

It was a heart-breaking end to the English side's European campaign, after Abel Xavier had earlier put them in control with a first-half equaliser.

Liverpool, with a 1-0 lead from the first leg at Anfield, might have doubled their advantage within the opening minute in the Bay Arena.

Bayer celebrates Ballack's opening strike
Bayer celebrates Ballack's opening strike

John Arne Riise, playing further forward with Jamie Carragher switched to left back to accommodate Xavier on the right, picked out an unmarked Emile Heskey in space on the edge of the Leverkusen box.

But the England striker's poor first touch took him away from the target, allowing a recovering Jens Novotny to deflect his shot wide.

Riise then cracked a half-volley over the bar, while the Brazilian Ze Roberto curled a free-kick over at the other end in a surprisingly open start to the match.

But the home side appeared to have stolen the initiative after 15 minutes when Ballack levelled the tie with a sweet strike from 25 yards.

Collecting a square pass, the German international calmly evaded Steven Gerrard's rash challenge before driving a left-foot shot through Dudek's weak one-handed effort into the top corner.

Owen (right) missed three good chances
Owen (right) missed three good chances

It could have been worse for Liverpool minutes later if veteran striker Ulf Kirsten had profited from Stephane Henchoz's poor clearance.

And Dudek had to be alert to divert Thomas Brdaric's snap-shot around a post after 39 minutes before Liverpool seized control of the tie three minutes before the interval.

Xavier met Danny Murphy's corner with a firm header from the edge of the six-yard box that Butt got a hand to, but couldn't keep out.

Suddenly Owen, who had earlier squandered a glorious chance with a poor touch, started to panic the Leverkusen defence, and Nowotny was booked for a cynical foul on the England forward.

At that stage Liverpool, who were forced to replace the injured Heskey with Litmanen in the 40th minute, knew that Leverkusen required two goals to progress.

Missed

But Owen twice missed good chances early in the second half to put the tie beyond doubt when clean through on the keeper.

Brdaric dwelled too long with a golden opportunity at the other end before Ballack put Bayer ahead on the night with a powerful header from Bernd Schneider's cross in the 63rd minute.

And within four minutes, Leverkusen were ahead on aggregate as substitute Berbatov fired home from close range after Henchoz had blocked Oliver Neuville's effort on the line.


Bayer Leverkusen: Butt, Nowotny, Lucio, Placente, Ze Roberto, Basturk, Ballack, Schneider, Sebescen, Kirsten, Brdaric. Subs: Juric, Babic, Zivkovic, Berbatov, Vranjes, Neuville, Kleine.

Liverpool: Dudek, Xavier, Hyypia, Henchoz, Murphy, Riise, Hamann, Gerrard, Carragher, Heskey, Owen. Subs: Kirkland, Smicer, Berger, Barmby, McAllister, Biscan, Litmanen.

Referee: M Pereira (Portugal).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Ian Brown
"The outcome could have been very different"
Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier
"I'm proud of my players"
Former Liverpool forward David Johnson
"A one goal lead just was not enough"
See also:

09 Apr 02 |  Football
Liverpool stunned by Leverkusen
Links to more Champions League stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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