Lyon 1 – 1 Liverpool
On a night where three points were simply a must for Liverpool, they were denied a crucial victory by a late Lisandro equaliser, crushing the spirits of the previously jubilant travelling supporters.
The famous Liver bird has enjoyed its recent travels to France.
In 2007, Liverpool travelled to the Stade Velodrome with maximum points a necessity. Goals from Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, Dirk Kuyt, and Ryan Babel helped the Reds ease to a 4-0 victory.
On this occasion, the red half of Merseyside descended upon Lyon knowing that they would have to make do without their skipper, Steven Gerrard, and an only half-fit Fernando Torres.
Andriy Voronin graced the starting lineup, replacing Gerrard, while Daniel Agger returned to the heart of the Liverpool defence with Jamie Carragher shuffling to right back.
The visitors started the stronger. Lyon appeared content to allow the Liverpool midfield stroke the ball across the field while Toulalan and Makoun crowded the area in front of the home box.
Rafa Benitez had been persecuted last Saturday for relieving Torres of his striking duties midway through the second half at Craven Cottage. But the Spaniard clearly had the trip to the Stade Gerland in mind.
Within 12 minutes the first opportunity of the night fell to ‘El Nino.’ Insua, who enjoyed a return to form, provided a low cross which found Liverpool’s No. 9. However, Torres hit his strike directly at Lloris, with the French international booting the ball to safety.
Less than four minutes later, Liverpool’s Argentine full back was bounding forward once more, curling in another cross which caused confusion in amongst the home defence. The ball eventually fell to Kuyt, but his attempt was palmed over the bar.
Javier Mascherano and Lucas Leiva controlled the centre of the park with ease. The one flaw in the compact midfield was Voronin, who failed to cause any real threat at the spearhead of the formation.
And arguably the best chance of the match fell to the Ukrainian.
Mascherano perfectly picked out the run of Voronin from a sharply-taken set piece. The striker drove his shot directly at Lloris much to the frustration of Pepe Reina who clearly displayed his anguish at the miss.
Voronin was pencilled in as set piece taker for Liverpool, which certainly is another interesting tactical decision by Benitez. Presumably it is to keep the hapless striker out of the box and getting in the way of his teammates.
Humorously, the Ukrainian surrendered his dead ball duties, instead, instructing Benayoun to take over the responsibility. It summarised the fortunes of the forward.
Lyon showed a greater thrust in the second half. They targeted Insua with Bastos attempting to outpace the cumbersome left back time and time again.
Up front, Torres looked a shadow of the player that had terrorised defences weeks earlier. His movement looked laboured and was it not for the importance of the tie would have undoubtedly been given some respite.
With half an hour remaining, Lucas was presented with a fantastic chance to open the scores. He managed to waltz into the Lyon box, but his placed shot was fisted away by Lloris, with Kuyt’s overhead attempt cleared off the line by some desperate defending by Cris and company.
Bastos and Kallstrom both rained efforts at Reina’s goal but the first real sense of panic crept into the away rearguard when Kyrgiakos’ shot challenged his keeper with a poor defensive header.
Lisandro had his resulting chipped shot well blocked by Reina.
The electric striker had another opening to send the expecting home crowd into jubilant mood. He outsmarted Agger and Kyrgiakos before curling his shot the wrong side of the post.
The introduction of Ryan Babel added an extra dimension to the Liverpool attack. It proved an inspired substitution.
On 82 minutes, Babel sent a stinging shot into the roof of the net. He mustered up months of pent-up frustration, unleashing a ferocious drive that even the impressive Lloris had no chance of diverting wide.
It seemed inevitable that Liverpool would go on to grind out a narrow victory.
But Lisandro, who had looked dangerous on the break all night, sent the Stade Gerland into a state of pandemonium with the game creeping into added time.
Poor defending allowed Lisandro to control the ball and fire an equaliser past the stranded Reina to leave Liverpool’s Champions League campaign in tatters.
It proved a sour end to a night where Liverpool had performed adequately to deny Lyon victory.
But ultimately sloppy defending undermined an encouraging performance.
Lyon team: Lloris, Revelliere, Cris, Toulalan, Cissokho, Pjanic, Makoun, Kallstrom, Gomis, Lisandro, Bastos.
Liverpool team: Reina, Carragher, Agger, Kyrgiakos, Insua, Kuyt, Lucas, Mascherano, Benayoun, Voronin, Torres.
Man of the Match: Javier Mascherano