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Page last updated at 20:56 GMT, Wednesday, 13 August 2008 21:56 UK

Standard Liege 0-0 Liverpool

By Mandeep Sanghera

Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina saves a penalty from Dante Bonfim as the Reds drew 0-0 at Standard Liege
Reina kept out a spot-kick from Dante Bonfim

Liverpool escaped with a draw after being dominated by Standard Liege in the first leg of their Champions League third qualifying round tie.

Liege's Marouane Fellaini had an early header that hit the inside of the post but was deemed not to have crossed the line before keeper Pepe Reina cleared.

Reina then saved a Dante Bonfim penalty as Liege spurned another chance.

The Reds were poor and Igor De Camargo put a free header wide as Liege were left to rue their profligacy.

In contrast, Liverpool will have breathed a collective sigh of relief after the game as they looked rusty and clearly struggled to make the step up from pre-season to a competitive game.

They lacked urgency and sharpness and a committed Liege - backed by a vociferous home crowd - quickly took advantage of their lacklustre rivals.

Liege may argue that Fellaini's early attempted header, which appeared to have come off his shoulder, went over the line but the call was too tight to be sure.


In truth, the midfielder should have done better as he rose unmarked to meet the set-piece before the home side had an even better chance to go in front.

The Belgians were awarded a penalty after Reds left-back Andrea Dossena was punished for blocking a cross with his arm, despite the offence appearing to be just outside the box.

Dante's spot-kick was too close to Reina and the keeper, who is renowned for being a specialist penalty stopper, saved with his body as he dived low to his right.

The visitors began to gradually find their feet as Liege took a breather after their energetic start and Liverpool struggled to half-time without another further mishaps.

But the break and any instructions from Reds boss Rafael Benitez did not help Liverpool's form as Liege continued to overpower the Premier League side.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez
Benitez did not want to bring on Gerrard but was forced to do so

De Camargo had a sight on goal for Liege when he latched on to a pull back from the byeline, only to strike his shot tamely and allow Liverpool to clear the danger.

The Liege striker had an even better chance shortly afterwards when he had a free header from Dante's cross but put his effort agonisingly just wide.

The Reds were missing skipper Steven Gerrard from their starting line-up because of a thigh injury but he was forced to come on to help their struggles.

He curled a free-kick narrowly over the crossbar as he immediately got involved and, even though Liverpool were second best, they go into the second leg on the week commencing 25 August still level.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:
"We were not playing well. The only positive thing you can take is that we didn't concede a goal.

"We know we have to win at Anfield and have confidence we can. We will have had more games and more players.

"There were a lot of things that we were not doing well and everyone is upset that it was a bad performance."

Standard Liege coach Laszlo Boloni:
"Liverpool maybe came here asleep and not expecting this sort of game.

"Maybe, though, we have woken them up for the second leg, which will be much harder for us.

"We felt that if we did not lose this first leg, we would still be in with a chance. We know, though, that we still have to score and that could be the problem.

"But I want to praise my team. They attacked Liverpool from the start and when their goalkeeper pulled the ball back from behind the line, maybe the referee was asleep too."

Standard Liege: Aragon, Dante, Dalmat, Defour, Mbokani, De Camargo, Mikulic (Nicaise 90), Camozzato, Sarr, Fellaini, Witsel.
Subs Not Used: Devriendt, Goreux, Toama, Benko, Ingrao, Dembele.

Booked: Camozzato, Mikulic.

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Dossena, Carragher, Agger, Alonso, Plessis, Benayoun, Kuyt (El Zhar 83), Keane (Gerrard 67), Torres.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Hyypia, Voronin, Pennant, Insua.

Booked: Alonso.

Att: 25,000

Ref: Tom Ovrebo (Norway).

see also
Champions League as it happened
13 Aug 08 |  Europe
Wednesday's football photos
13 Aug 08 |  Football

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