Liverpool's run in the Europa League isn't over, but the mountain the Reds will need to climb is rather massive after dropping the first leg 2-0 to Zenit St. Petersburg.
Missed opportunities were the theme on this day for Liverpool, and second-half goals by Hulk and Sergei Semak make the prospect of advancing to the next round dim at best.
Liverpool would have the first major chance in the game, as Luis Suarez streaked down the left side and sent a shot just inches wide to the right of the net in the second minute.
But Zenit would wrestle control of the game from there. Hulk—a threatening presence for much of the first half down the right side, as was Danny—was thwarted in the fourth minute by a Pepe Reina diving save and again in the 27th minute by the left post after smashing a shot toward goal.
Missing chances was the theme of much of the first half. Suarez would send another shot wide, this time a chipped effort, after Raheem Sterling found him in the box. Still, Liverpool recovered in the final 15 minutes of the half and looked a more competitive side than the one that started the game.
Liverpool came out strong in the second half. Glen Johnson went on a brilliant run, but saw his attempt to slip the ball between the keeper's legs in the box denied.
And Suarez would also come up just short again, curling a shot just wide a few minutes later.
Liverpool rued those opportunities lost when Hulk absolutely blasted a shot from 25 yards out past the diving Reina, somewhat against the run of play. Liverpool had been playing with fire against Hulk on the right side, and the Brazilians's powerful left foot finally burnt the Reds.
Three minutes later, Zenit would double its lead when substitute Sergei Semak calmly deposited a cross that reached him on the back post into the net.
Liverpool now return to Anfield for the second leg in rather dire straits, trailing by two on aggregate and basically having no hope to advance if they concede a goal. This certainly wasn't the result the Liverpool faithful were hoping for.
Luis Suarez, Liverpool: B-
On one hand, Suarez was Liverpool's finest player, once again shining with solid movement and creative play. But on the other hand, Suarez had some really, really good chances on goal and he simply wasn't able to execute.
Even if Liverpool had lost 2-1, it would have had a great chance at advancing. Now, it's nearly an impossible task, and Suarez will surely look back at chances missed in this one.
Hulk, Zenit: A
If there were a better player on the pitch in this contest, I didn't see him. Hulk was a pain for Liverpool down the right side the entire game, and his goal from 25 yards out was a stroke of pure class. HULK SMASH!
Brendan Rodgers and the rest of the Liverpool Squad: D
This wasn't Liverpool's finest formation to begin with, and it showed. Joe Allen and Stewart Downing struggled throughout. Raheem Sterling had a poor showing as well. Steven Gerrard, Jose Enrique and Allen never clicked in the midfield. Lucas Leiva wasn't subbed on until the 78th minute even though he was much-needed long before then.
All in all, a pretty dreadful performance by Liverpool. Even if they had scored on the opportunities they created, it's hard to say the 2-0 result wasn't justified.
Danny, Zenit: A-
Much like Hulk, Liverpool simply had no answers for Danny's movement and runs down the right side. He wouldn't score on the afternoon, but he certainly exposed a weakness in the Reds' formation that wasn't addressed the entire game.
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