Liverpool vs. Zenit: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction
Zenit St. Petersburg eliminated Liverpool from the Europa League on away goals after the two sides finished 3-3 on aggregate, although the Reds kept the contest interesting by winning the second leg 3-1.
The fans at Anfield saw their side get off to a disastrous start when veteran centre-back Jamie Carragher made an inexplicable mistake that put Zenit striker Hulk through on goal. The big Brazilian calmly finished the golden opportunity to give his team a 1-0 lead in the match, a 3-0 lead on aggregate and an all-important away goal.
This left Liverpool in need of four goals in 70 minutes, but the daunting task did not phase Luis Suarez.
In the 27th minute, the Uruguayan's free kick found a gap in the wall and tied the game. Just before halftime, Joe Allen's determination led to a tap-in, which conjured images from Liverpool's incredible comeback against AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final.
In the second half, Suarez pulled his side level and aggregate in the 59th minute with another goal on a free kick. While the first goal required a little luck, this effort was nothing short of sublime.
With the score tied 3-3 on aggregate, Liverpool was still behind on away goals and aggressively pushed forward. But in the end, the club fell just short of finding its way through to the next round.
Luis Suarez, Liverpool: A+
The star striker's performance was incredibly gutsy. He maintained the concentration necessary to knock in two fantastic free kick goals when the situation seemed hopeless for the Reds.
It wasn't enough in the end, but there was little else Suarez could have done.
Hulk, Zenit: B
The Brazilian striker got off to a start that suggested he would receive much higher marks in this match. He was fortunate enough to receive a wonderful opportunity from Jamie Carragher's mistake, and he made the finish look incredibly easy.
However, he followed the rest of the Zenit attack and simply disappeared once this goal was scored.
Joe Allen, Liverpool: A-
The young Welshman has not lived up to expectations since joining the Reds, but that was not evident in this match. His effort was fantastic, and his refusal to give up on an scoring chance in the penalty area led to a crucial goal.
With more performances like this, Allen will go on to have a long and productive Liverpool career.
Axel Witsel, Zenit: C
The talented Belgian midfielder is known for his ability to both defend and create going forward. However, he displayed neither quality in this match.
Liverpool's manic effort simply overran the Zenit midfield, leaving Witsel and his teammates looking hapless and confused. As the most talented of the group, he receives the bulk of the blame.
Steven Gerrard, Liverpool: B+
Gerrard played a key role in Liverpool's historic comeback in 2005, and while he was unable to achieve the same magic in this game, he too put forth a courageous performance.
He was active and engaged throughout the match. He kept balance in the Liverpool midfield and ensured that his side dominated the match. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite enough to put the Reds through.
Liverpool's time in Europe is over, and it will next take the pitch to play Wigan this Saturday.
Zenit is on to the next round in the Europa League and the team's next fixture will be a domestic league game against Mordovia Saransk on March 9.
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