Ryan Babel is left perplexed after receiving the red card in the first half
By Mark Ashenden
Benfica's Oscar Cardozo scored twice as 10-man Liverpool lost a lively first leg of the Europa League quarter-final.
The Reds took the lead when Daniel Agger back-flicked a clever Steven Gerrard free-kick after nine minutes.
Liverpool's Ryan Babel then saw red for pushing Luisao in the face, and Cardozo levelled from the spot after Emiliano Insua had hacked down Pablo Aimar.
Fernando Torres missed a one-on-one before Cardozo scored another penalty after Jamie Carragher had handled.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez insisted success at the home of the Portuguese table-toppers would be down to "attitude" rather than specific tactics and his team rarely let him down, despite being edged out in an enthralling battle.
Coming four years after Benfica ended Liverpool's Champions League hopes with two wins in their last-16 clash, Benitez will see this as a fine result after his players fought for much of the game with 10 men.
Although a five-man midfield, anchored by the recalled Lucas and Javier Mascherano, suggested a cautious approach, the Reds grabbed the precious prize of an away goal after only nine minutes.
After being tripped on the edge of the box by Maxi Pereira, Gerrard side-footed the free-kick to the unmarked Agger who flicked into the net from eight yards out, silencing the Estadio da Luz stadium.
The goal was as spectacular as it was surprising with the hosts having conceded only 12 league goals all season, as well as it being the defender's first goal of the season.
Agger was immediately in the thick of the action at the other end as his sliding tackle denied Cardozo at the back post after a penetrating bending cross from the lively Angel di Maria.
Benfica, so impressive in their demolition of Everton in October in the same competition, were beginning to carve open the visitors' defence and Aimar and Di Maria both went close to an equaliser.
It was on the half-hour though that the game came to life when Liverpool were reduced to 10 men after a puzzling flurry of cards by Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson.
Luisao hacked down Torres from behind and was rightfully shown a yellow card, but then Babel needlessly pushed the centre-half in the face and was dismissed.
After a long protest and confusion the Liverpool forward eventually walked off as Luisao survived.
But as the Portuguese team continued to rampage forward in search of an equaliser before the break, the Liverpool defence were equal to the task.
As well as worrying about his numerical inferiority at the interval, Benitez would also have been cursing his luck after watching Insua pick up a booking to rule him out of the second leg.
The second half continued in similar vein and Benfica were finally rewarded just before the hour and it was all down to the man who had just missed two glorious headed opportunities.
After Cardozo was fouled by Agger outside the box, the Benfica striker crashed a free-kick against the upright and as the Liverpool defence panicked, Insua mistimed his challenge on Aimar.
Cardozo showed no fear in powering his low penalty past Pepe Reina for his 29th strike of the season.
The hosts were soon screaming for a second penalty, but this time the referee rejected the appeals following Carragher's reckless boot going into Cardozo's chest.
The pace of the game was relentless and Liverpool should have added to their total on the breakaway. Dirk Kuyt threaded a ball through to Torres but the Spaniard uncharacteristically dragged his shot wide of the left post when clean through.
The home supporters were soon in full voice when Carragher hurled himself at a Di Maria cross and with the defender's hands thrust forward at the ball, the assistant referee showed no hesitation in signalling for a penalty.
Cardozo calmly stepped up and dinked the ball once again to the left of Reina.
Apart from a weak Gerrard shot, Liverpool rarely threatened from then on, but they will still strongly fancy their chances with the return leg at Anfield next week.
90:00+4:33 Daniel Agger challenges Miguel Nuno Gomes unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick crossed left-footed by Angel Di Maria.
90:00+2:41 Foul by Alexandre Fabio Coentrao on David Ngog, free kick awarded. Javier Mascherano takes the free kick.
90:00+2:18 Shot by Angel Di Maria. Save made by Jose Reina.
90:00+0:29 Substitution Yossi Benayoun replaces Steven Gerrard.
88:47 Steven Gerrard takes a shot. Save made by Jacobi Julio Cesar.
88:22 Steven Gerrard decides to take the corner short.
87:50 Foul by Filipe Ruben Amorim on David Ngog, free kick awarded. Steven Gerrard delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed
from left wing.
86:31 Foul by Santos Airton on David Ngog, free kick awarded. Daniel Agger restarts play with the free kick.
85:43 Substitution Pablo Aimar goes off and Santos Airton comes on.
84:22 Steven Gerrard is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Jacobi Julio Cesar restarts play with the free kick.
81:32 Substitution David Ngog on for Fernando Torres.
78:50 GOAL - Oscar Cardozo:Benfica 2 - 1 Liverpool Placed penalty scored by Oscar Cardozo. Benfica 2-1 Liverpool.
78:01 Booking Jamie Carragher receives a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.
77:44 The referee gives a against Jamie Carragher for handball.
77:10 Effort from just outside the area by Marinho David Luiz goes over the target.
Correction - 75:50 Outswinging corner taken left-footed by Angel Di Maria played to the near post, Glen Johnson manages to make a clearance.
75:50 Angel Di Maria takes the outswinging corner, clearance made by Jamie Carragher.
75:24 Fernando Torres has an effort at goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the left-hand upright.
74:51 Unfair challenge on Fernando Torres by Filipe Ruben Amorim results in a free kick. Emiliano Insua takes the free kick.
73:11 Booking Jose Reina is shown a yellow card.
72:24 Corner taken by Angel Di Maria from the right by-line played to the near post, Emiliano Insua manages to make a clearance.
71:04 Substitution Filipe Ruben Amorim on for Jorge Carlos Martins.
71:04 Unfair challenge on Fernando Torres by Jorge Carlos Martins results in a free kick. The ball is delivered by Steven Gerrard,
Headed effort from inside the area by Fernando Torres misses to the left of the goal.
68:22 Alexandre Fabio Coentrao delivers the ball.
67:18 Francisco Javi Garcia concedes a free kick for a foul on Fernando Torres. Steven Gerrard crosses the ball from the free kick
right-footed from left wing.
65:32 Substitution Victorio Maxi Pereira leaves the field to be replaced by Miguel Nuno Gomes.
64:47 Free kick awarded for a foul by Oscar Cardozo on Javier Mascherano. Jose Reina restarts play with the free kick.
64:14 Jorge Carlos Martins takes a inswinging corner to the near post, Glen Johnson makes a clearance.
63:49 The ball is sent over by Steven Gerrard.
62:57 Marinho David Luiz concedes a free kick for a foul on Fernando Torres. Steven Gerrard crosses the ball from the free kick
right-footed from right wing, clearance made by Marinho David Luiz.
62:08 Victorio Maxi Pereira gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Daniel Agger. Direct free kick taken by Jose Reina.
59:46 The referee blows for offside against Nascimento Ramires. Jose Reina restarts play with the free kick.
58:55 GOAL - Oscar Cardozo:Benfica 1 - 1 Liverpool Oscar Cardozo scores a power penalty. Benfica 1-1 Liverpool.
57:33 Penalty awarded for an unfair challenge on Pablo Aimar by Emiliano Insua.
56:28 Foul by Daniel Agger on Oscar Cardozo, free kick awarded. Shot comes in from Oscar Cardozo from the free kick.
54:24 The official flags Fernando Torres offside. Jacobi Julio Cesar takes the indirect free kick.
53:51 Alexandre Fabio Coentrao is adjudged to have handled the ball. Free kick taken by Jose Reina.
53:11 Fernando Torres is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Indirect free kick taken by Jacobi Julio Cesar.
49:59 Oscar Cardozo takes a shot from just outside the penalty area clears the crossbar.
48:51 Inswinging corner taken by Angel Di Maria, Close range headed effort by Oscar Cardozo clears the crossbar.
47:21 Oscar Cardozo takes a shot. Save by Jose Reina.
45:01 The game restarts for the second half.
45:00+2:24 The first half comes to an end.
45:00+1:59 Corner taken by Nascimento Ramires from the right by-line played to the near post.
45:00+1:17 A cross is delivered by Victorio Maxi Pereira, save by Jose Reina.
44:58 The free kick is swung in right-footed by Nascimento Ramires.
44:58 Booking Emiliano Insua booked for unsporting behaviour.
44:54 Foul by Emiliano Insua on Nascimento Ramires, free kick awarded.
43:45 Outswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Steven Gerrard.
40:38 Anderson Luisao produces a left-footed shot from inside the area that clears the bar.
38:45 Fernando Torres takes a shot. Save made by Jacobi Julio Cesar.
37:21 Emiliano Insua gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Nascimento Ramires. The free kick is swung in right-footed
by Nascimento Ramires.
36:04 Free kick crossed right-footed by Glen Johnson. The referee blows for offside. Free kick taken by Jacobi Julio Cesar.
36:04 Booking Marinho David Luiz booked.
35:59 Marinho David Luiz gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Fernando Torres.
35:26 Angel Di Maria has an effort at goal from just inside the box that misses to the left of the target.
35:17 A cross is delivered by Angel Di Maria, clearance made by Jamie Carragher.
30:55 Free kick taken by Emiliano Insua.
30:55 Sent off Ryan Babel is sent off by the referee for violent conduct.
28:45 Booking Anderson Luisao receives a caution.
28:40 Fernando Torres fouled by Anderson Luisao, the ref awards a free kick.
27:38 Shot by Angel Di Maria from outside the box goes over the target.
23:50 Alexandre Fabio Coentrao gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Glen Johnson. Glen Johnson takes the direct free
23:11 Angel Di Maria sends in a cross, Header on goal by Nascimento Ramires from inside the box goes harmlessly over the target.
19:24 Pablo Aimar takes a shot. Save by Jose Reina.
19:03 The official flags Ryan Babel offside. Marinho David Luiz takes the free kick.
17:52 The ball is crossed by Angel Di Maria.
17:04 A cross is delivered by Alexandre Fabio Coentrao, Oscar Cardozo takes a shot. Save made by Jose Reina.
15:32 Leiva Lucas challenges Nascimento Ramires unfairly and gives away a free kick. Angel Di Maria sends in a cross, Headed effort
from inside the area by Francisco Javi Garcia misses to the right of the goal.
14:35 The ball is swung over by Glen Johnson, Victorio Maxi Pereira manages to make a clearance.
14:01 Dirk Kuyt fouled by Francisco Javi Garcia, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Steven Gerrard.
13:05 Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard played to the near post, clearance by Anderson Luisao.
12:48 Marinho David Luiz gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Fernando Torres. Free kick taken by Glen Johnson.
11:10 Angel Di Maria produces a cross, Oscar Cardozo produces a left-footed shot from close in that clears the bar.
10:27 Corner taken by Jorge Carlos Martins.
10:01 Free kick awarded for a foul by Glen Johnson on Nascimento Ramires. Nascimento Ramires takes the direct free kick.
9:35 Oscar Cardozo takes a shot. Save by Jose Reina.
8:29 Assist by Steven Gerrard.
8:29 GOAL - Daniel Agger:Benfica 0 - 1 Liverpool Daniel Agger gets on the score sheet with a goal from inside the penalty area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Benfica
7:42 Free kick awarded for a foul by Victorio Maxi Pereira on Steven Gerrard. Steven Gerrard sends in a cross,
7:30 Leiva Lucas gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Pablo Aimar. Direct free kick taken by Pablo Aimar.
6:59 A cross is delivered by Fernando Torres, Anderson Luisao gets a block in. Corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard, Jacobi
Julio Cesar makes a save.
0:39 The assistant referee signals for offside against Glen Johnson. Jacobi Julio Cesar takes the indirect free kick.
0:00 The game begins.
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